The best part of flying (other than getting places really fast) is when you get pressed into the back of your seat during takeoff. Well, how much harder would the plane push without all those other passengers and their luggage?


Pretty hard.

When we saw an Airbus A320 beat a Ferrari F12 in a drag race, reader dal20402 confirmed our suspicions that unladen jets are massively powerful.

Anyone who is a speed freak needs to experience a full-power takeoff in an empty airliner at some point in his or her life. What you feel in normal operations isn't remotely close to what they can do under the right conditions.


How did it happen?

My experience was in 1989, as one of four passengers in a brand-new British Airways 767-300ER. Takeoff in about 3000 feet from a dead stop, and (I was later informed) climb of close to 10,000 feet/minute for the first minute or so.

Something that big accelerating and climbing that fast is mind-boggling.

Reader shortyoh explained why these bird birds can pull so strong.

What many people don't realize is that as their jet is thundering down the runway, the pilots are facing several decision points about continuing the takeoff. When they hit V1, they're basically going to be taking off no matter what happens. Yet for safety's sake, they have to be able to continue the takeoff and climb safely with one engine out.

Now let's look at a standard airliner. Two engines. One engine out means you have to be able to take off, with your full load, and continue to accelerate and climb, all on one engine.

Now take away the load and put both engines at full power. That's twice as much power as in the engine out case, but a fraction of the load. That equals massive acceleration.

I've seen climb rates claimed for the 757 empty as high as a bit over 6,000 fpm. Meaning about 70 miles per hour vertical speed. That's roughly between 1/3 and 1/4th of the maximum initial climb rate of modern fighter jets.

Now we just need to find an empty flight to nowhere. Or we could book a flight out of the Princess Juliana Airport in St. Martin, where pilots hold the planes at the back of the runway on full throttle and full brakes until the engines are at maximum power. Either way.

Video Credit: Gadget666 (757 vertical climb, 2006)

Share This Story

Get our newsletter