For aircraft that take off horizontally, this usually involves starting with a transition from moving along the ground on a runway. For balloons, helicopters and some specialized fixed-wing aircraft (VTOL aircraft such as the Harrier), no runway is needed. Takeoff is the opposite of landing.
For light aircraft, usually full power is used during takeoff. Large transport category (airliner) aircraft may use a reduced power for takeoff, where less than full power is applied in order to prolong engine life, reduce maintenance costs and reduce noise emissions. In some emergency cases, the power used can then be increased to increase the aircraft's performance. Before takeoff, the engines, particularly piston engines, are routinely run up at high power to check for engine-related problems. The aircraft is permitted to accelerate to rotation speed (often referred to as Vr). The term rotation is used because the aircraft pivots around the axis of its main landing gear while still on the ground, usually because of manipulation of the flight controls to make this change in aircraft attitude.
The nose is raised to a nominal 5°–15° nose up pitch attitude to increase lift from the wings and effect liftoff. For most aircraft, attempting a takeoff without a pitch-up would require cruise speeds while still on the runway.
Fixed-wing aircraft designed for high-speed operation (such as commercial jet aircraft) have difficulty generating enough lift at the low speeds encountered during takeoff. These are therefore fitted with high-lift devices, often including slats and usually flaps, which increase the camber and often area of the wing, making it more effective at low speed, thus creating more lift. These are deployed from the wing before takeoff, and retracted during the climb. They can also be deployed at other times, such as before landing.
The speeds needed for takeoff are relative to the motion of the air (indicated airspeed). A headwind will reduce the ground speed needed for takeoff, as there is a greater flow of air over the wings. Typical takeoff air speeds for jetliners are in the 130–155 knot range (150–180 mph, 240–285 km/h). Light aircraft, such as a Cessna 150, take off at around 55 knots (63 mph, 100 km/h). Ultralights have even lower takeoff speeds. For a given aircraft, the takeoff speed is usually dependent on the aircraft weight; the heavier the weight, the greater the speed needed. Some aircraft are specifically designed for short takeoff and landing (STOL), which they achieve by becoming airborne at very low speeds.