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Cleared for Takeoff

26 October 2022

Lined up with the runway centerline, waiting for the takeoff clearance. Flight time: seven hours. Once we're up there, the clouds and stars will be our playing field.

Seat adjusted to my personal liking, one hand on the four thrust levers, the other hand holding the yoke in front of me. Feet on the rudder pedals and ready to roll. A final scan of the engine instruments: all fine. Flaps and stabilizer trim are set, check.

Finally: we're cleared for takeoff. My First Officer turns on the landing lights, casting powerful beams of light on the asphalt ahead.
I move the thrust levers a bit forward and let the engines stabilise around 70% before advancing them all the way to takeoff power. The resulting acceleration is incredible, the sound magnificent.

Only slight movements with the rudder pedals are needed to stay on centerline.
“Takeoff Thrust set” reports my First Officer, indicating that all four engines are operating at the calculated thrust setting.
We continue to accelerate. Past eighty knots (150 km/h) within a couple of seconds, the entire machine feels alive. A slight tremble permeating through the cockpit as we blast over the irregular runway.
I glance in quick and continuous succession at the runway ahead, the airspeed indicator and engine instruments, making sure all is as should be. I can still abort the takeoff if I have to.

Hundred and twenty knots: a silver stream of water runs diagonally upwards across my windscreen, reflecting the brilliant lights in her long wake. I try to ignore it.

“V1”: we have to continue now, no matter what. I move my right hand from the thrust levers and pull on the yoke in front of me three seconds later as we've reached our “Rotate” speed of over 160 kts, or 300 km/h.
A gentle, steady pull is all that is needed to lift the nose and begin our climb through the sky beyond. The main landing gear is off the runway moments later: the queen is airborne.

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