Rudder Failure On Takeoff? What Would You Do?

When piloting an aircraft, there are several inspections and checks that must be implemented before taking off. One of the various items to inspect on an aircraft before taking off is the rudder. This is because the rudder is vital for ensuring that you as the pilot are on the centerline of the runway. The right rudder, specifically, is responsible for preventing the plane from veering toward the left outermost edge. Should there be any issues with this part, the chances that your takeoff and landing could be impacted increases significantly. If there is ever an instance where rudder failure is an issue, the best strategy to implement is that which is pre-planned. For those unfamiliar with aircraft and the physics behind how they are able to take flight, it is important to understand why the rudder is so important. Knowing this will help in understanding the reason for an aircraft’s natural tendency to turn left. There are four reasons for this, those being the torque, P-factor, gyroscopic precession, and the spiraling slipstream. For a more detailed outline of these three factors, see below:

Torque Effect

Newton's third law states that "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction." Torque comes into play in the aircraft’s engines. The engine rotates clockwise and when throttled for takeoff, the right-turning direction of the engine and propeller forces the left side of the airplane down toward the runway. The moment that the left side of the airplane is forced down on the runway, the left tire has more friction on the ground than the right tire, which makes the aircraft tend to lean left.

Spiraling Slipstream

The spiraling slipstream is the airstream created by the propeller flowing over the aircraft. The airstream that is created from this extends from the fuselage and ends in the form of a spiral. This slipstream is the final reason for the rudder’s left turning tendency. This happens when the propeller is moving fast and the plane is moving slow, or else during takeoff.


Also known as the asymmetric propeller loading, the P-factor occurs during downward movement when the propeller blade is taking more air than the air that moves upward the moving blade.


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