Top 4 reasons why takeoff is smoother in a larger plane

For those who have flown in a small airplane versus a large commercial jetliner, you know that the experience is quite different, even though all the parts are the same: takeoff, fly in the air, land. So why is it such a different experience if both planes are doing the same things? Captain Jon Cox, CEO of Safety Operating Systems explained the four key factors that contribute to the ease that someone feels in a jetliner at takeoff.

1) The weight of the plane

Most people have the tendency to assume that pilots of small airplanes must not be as skilled as authorized commercial pilots and that is why the experience in a small plane is much shakier and bumpier. However, that is just not the case.

Cox explained that the immense weight of the jet planes obviously slows down their velocity making it actually more difficult to lift off the ground. That heavy mass and slow acceleration actually make for a more balanced and smoother feel during takeoff. The light weight of a smaller airplane makes it so that they can increase speed much faster, so takeoff and landing can happen much quicker. However, once in the air they are affected in much greater proportions by the wind and turbulence, so each little bump is felt by the passengers.

2) The number of engines

Large planes operate with about four large engines to get such a large, heavy object moving and off the ground. Engines provide thrust for the steady climb to high altitude, so the more engines a plane has, the more thrust to propel the plane through the air. Smaller planes can do this with only one, sometimes two engines because their mass is so much lighter.

“Large four-engine airplanes climb slower than modern twin jets,” said Cox. “With a four-engine airplane there are three other engines to provide thrust for the climb, in a twin there is only one. This means that twin jets have a higher power-to-weight ratio than three or four engine jets.”

3) Differences in landing gear

While these differences do not play huge roles in the variable turbulence, they can sometimes be a contributing factor to some extent. A large jetliner obviously has more sets of larger tires than a small airplane. These large sets of landing gear just provide for increased stability as the plane takes off or lands. Cox compared this experience to that of a motorcycle versus a car. With the smaller and fewer tires, the motorcycle is going to feel the impact from a pothole in a much more intense way than the car will.

4) A different visual experience

With a smaller plane you are closer to the ground and visually you have a much better idea of where you are relative to your surroundings. In the larger jet, you lose some of that visual awareness as you only see out your small window if you are lucky enough to have window seat. This visual awareness sometimes causes your eyes to play tricks on you and overall heightens your sensitivity to movement or changes.