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Here in this video, you can see an airplane trying hard to gain altitude (happens at 1 min 17 secs, original video):

Plane Gets Struck By Lightning

I am skeptical. Does it actually happen, or is the pilot or autopilot doing it on purpose? In my opinion, these are the potential causes:

  • In this scenario, we may conclude that the lift is lower than it would be if the plane were flying normally.
  • The weight can also be greater than the maximum takeoff weight (MTOW).
  • The pilot may not have activated the flaps.
  • This can also happen during an icing condition on wings.

Am I correct?

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    $\begingroup$ Significant icing only occurs in visible moisture (fog, cloud, drizzle or rain), but here it's sunny with no clouds in sight, so icing can be ruled out. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jan 17 at 8:08
  • $\begingroup$ A bigger question stems from the second video linked... for the jet that is hit by lightning... is that the pilot's real nose? Looks like he borrowed it from the Concorde. $\endgroup$ Jan 19 at 1:55

3 Answers 3

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According to the video's information:

EMB-721 Sertanejo heavy and insane takeoff in Carlos Prates

This is

"EMB-721 Sertanejo heavy and insane takeoff in Carlos Prates. Full fuel, 6 on board plus luggage Copilot was 0 hours, crystallized and kept pulling the youke [sic]. Cpt took over, lowered his nose and managed to fly."

Basically, the inexperienced pilot miscalculated or misread the takeoff speed, and lifted too early, too hard.

Then when the plane just wallowed, he kept pulling back thinking that the laws of physics would make an exception for him if he kept on insisting hard enough. The captain was yelling: “Leave it to me. Stop pulling the yoke!”. The captain took over control, lowered the nose just a bit to allow airspeed to build up, and then gained altitude.

P.S.: One does wonder about the wisdom of giving a pilot with zero hours on the plane, the role as takeoff pilot from that airport in those conditions.

Heavy plane, crosswind takeoff, utterly unforgiving runway runoff (the runway runoff is a cliff leading to densely populated urban area, including condos!), and multiple passengers, including screaming kids.

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    $\begingroup$ The EMB-721 Sertanejo is a Piper PA-32R built under licence in Brazil. commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Embraer_EMB-721_Sertanejo $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 6:47
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    $\begingroup$ The Carlos Prates airport elevation is 3,044’ and the runway is only 2,848’ long. That is pretty marginal for a heavy PA-32 on a hot day. $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 6:53
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    $\begingroup$ "crystallized " = "froze"? $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 7:31
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    $\begingroup$ Copilot: "I can't hear myself think, we must be at vR." - Captain: "Someday they won't scream and we're gonna roll right over the edge." $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ Unbelievable. How close are they to the roofs in 0:20-0:25? And at 0:49 they are flying between high-rises. Absolute madness. You can't get closer to a crash and not crash. $\endgroup$ Jan 19 at 13:55
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Looks overloaded for the temperature/altitude conditions. With all the yapping and chattering, it sounds like the cabin was full. Once out ground effect, its rate of climb appears to have been around 50 FPM.

The shadow of the tail looks to be a Piper Cherokee, and the engine sounds like a 6 cylinder engine, so I'm guessing it's a Cherokee 6, way overloaded for that particular departure. The engine sounds fine.

Some decent flying skills were applied there, balanced on a knife edge of performance or lack thereof, to make up for some horrible judgement. He was a couple of knots away from descending instead of (barely) climbing.

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    $\begingroup$ Agree with John K. This is a profoundly scary video to watch. $\endgroup$ Jan 17 at 3:32
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    $\begingroup$ Per the other answer, you guessed the plane correctly. Amazing! $\endgroup$
    – StephenS
    Jan 18 at 4:47
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  • In this scenario, we may conclude that the Lift is lower than it would be if the plane were flying normally.

A low climb rate is not caused by lack of lift. A lack of lift would cause the plane to accelerate downward. Lift is actually slightly less than weight in a steady climb.

A low climb rate is caused by excess drag, i.e. by a lack of excess thrust compared to the drag vector.

For more, see this related ASE answer: Does lift equal weight in a climb?

One source of excess drag is that the wing is being operated at an excessive angle of attack (AOA). Taking off overloaded from a short runway, failing to apply takeoff flaps, and ice on the wing which decreases the lift coefficient at any given angle of attack, would all be possible reasons why a pilot might find it difficult to keep the plane in the air at a more normal angle of attack, as suggested in the question.

And as suggested in several answers, the only way out of such a situation is to avoid the temptation to raise the nose too high, and allow the plane to accelerate to a higher airspeed.

Pilots often use "lift" in a way that really means something more like "climbing capability". If we really want to analyze what is going on in terms of the underlying physical forces, we have to remember that "lift" is not the same as "climbing capability".

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    $\begingroup$ the only way out of such a situation - Of course avoiding the possibility for the situation in the first place is the only safe way to fly. Better training. Less load. Fly in appropriate weather conditions. They nearly killed themselves and the people living in those homes. Hopefully a license or two will get pulled... $\endgroup$ Jan 19 at 2:04
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    $\begingroup$ Wow, that's a scary story. I once had an experience in which the pilot instructed us to all urinate/defecate (outside of the little aircraft) before trying to take off. We immediately decided to hike ourselves out instead of going up in the air with that pilot. Unrelated, I had an experience where I felt like an idiot for not taking the keys away from a friend who was driving once I realized he was drinking. I was sleeping in the back seat and woke up to see him drinking... it was many, many years ago, but I still feel like an idiot for not insisting he immediately pull over. $\endgroup$ Jan 19 at 3:31
  • $\begingroup$ @quietflyer The real cause of this incident is low take-off speed. So we can say Lift is less due to less take-off speed. How drag is greater due to take-off speed? Lift is upward force. So high lift means high force in an upward direction and high climb rate. Correct me if I am wrong. $\endgroup$
    – Auberron
    Jan 19 at 5:36

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