I am an aviation enthusiast. A couple of months back I came to know about the difference between piloting Boeing and Airbus planes here.

What are the main differences piloting Boeing vs. Airbus aircraft?

The very first comparison says this:

Boeing trusts more the pilots: they can supersede the autopilots commands by exerting enough force on the controls

Airbus trusts more the autopilot: if the system is fully functional it will always have priority over the pilots (but they still have room for "non-standard" maneuvers, e.g. commanding bank angles beteween 33° and 60°)

Also another answer stated this:

Airbus aircraft limit pilots' capabilities in situations that require extreme action to be taken; the computer may prevent the pilot from pushing the plane past its safe ranges, which could be necessary in case of an emergency.

Boeing aircraft leave ultimate control mostly to the pilot.

Now relating the above points with the recent near vertical take off by Boeing 787-9 in the Paris air show 2015:

enter image description here

Is this near vertical take off is an example that "Boeing aircraft leave ultimate control mostly to the pilot"? If Airbus aircraft trust the autopilot more, would they allow this type of takeoff as it is done by pilot by pushing the engines to extreme? Also, is it some kind of mockery by Boeing to Airbus?

For those who haven't yet watched the video, here is the link:

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    $\begingroup$ The near vertical takeoff was actually at an angle of 55 degrees only. The video makes it look like vertical.. $\endgroup$
    – anshabhi
    Jun 22, 2015 at 8:39
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    $\begingroup$ Who wants to bet that the plane was at (near) operational empty weight. I doubt the plane could do that if at max takeoff weight. $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2015 at 9:12
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    $\begingroup$ I do agree that its not 90 degrees, but can you mention the source that says it was 55 degrees? $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2015 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ CNN prompted Boeing to "share specifics about the takeoff and banking angles during the flight." A company spokeswoman told CNN "we unfortunately aren't sharing specifics about the profile such as bank angles at this time." linkedin.com/pulse/… $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2015 at 9:17
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    $\begingroup$ The text you've quoted was pulled out of context. This "limiting in extreme situations" is made sounding like a bad thing. Read the bottom of that post. E.g. this limiting is what made miracle on the Hudson River easier for the pilot (he could just pull back the stick all the way and focus on looking for landing area - in Boeing he would have to pay attention to not pull back too hard). As everything in the world, some people find it good, other find it bad. As neither of us fly, it's not really our business to judge. $\endgroup$
    – Agent_L
    Jun 23, 2015 at 8:59

2 Answers 2



Firstly, as a comment noted, the takeoff was hardly "near vertical", the camera angle makes it look so. The takeoff angle in the video certainly is much steeper than a normal one, but Airbus aircraft are more than capable of doing the same - in fact an A350 did very much the same thing at the Paris Air Show.

The notion that an Airbus doesn't let the pilots have complete control is a little bit misleading. I'm not going to go into too much detail in this question, but what most people are referring to when they say that is the Alpha Protection system. This system kicks in when the aircraft is at extreme angles of attack. For example, if an aircraft is about to stall, it will not let the pilot pull the nose up. In any plausible situation the pilot would not want to raise the nose anyway, yet we have seen accidents such as Colgan 3407 where the pilot did exactly that (and, also AF447, however the system was disabled in that crash).

In summary, the Airbus system pretty much only prevents pilot actions that are dangerous (OK it is more complex than that, and the Boeing design has benefits too, but..). Back to your question, why does the Airbus system also allow such a steep takeoff? Because only the attitude was high, but the angle of attack was still within normal limits. These takeoffs are possible on lightly loaded aircraft with engines near full power.

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    $\begingroup$ I would like to add, that Boeing now, since 777, implements basically the same flight envelope protections that Airbus does. The only difference is that Boeing emulates mechanical link within the flight envelope while Airbus has automatic trim which makes things easier, but takes some feel of the aircraft away. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jun 22, 2015 at 9:53
  • $\begingroup$ The Boeing 787-9 did make a near vertical take-off at the show. Look at this video: video.seattletimes.com/4298090272001 $\endgroup$
    – user9007
    Jun 23, 2015 at 2:32
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    $\begingroup$ @TeeVeeTee: It was nowhere near vertical. CNN asked Boeing to share specifics about the takeoff and banking angles during the flight. The company preferred to keep aviation geeks guessing. A spokeswoman told CNN "we unfortunately aren't sharing specifics about the profile such as bank angles at this time." ... It's aviation eye candy to be sure, but an airline pilot warns that we shouldn't be too impressed. ... "Some of what you're seeing on takeoff is a trick of perspective," said 767 pilot Patrick Smith. "It looks like the takeoff is at a near vertical 90 degree angle — trust me it's not." $\endgroup$ Aug 28, 2015 at 11:14
  • $\begingroup$ Many envelope protection (such as pitch angle) can be turned off (in Airbus by forcing the alternate law, e.g. by switching off some redundancy). We are speaking of maneuvre performed by pilots trained for air show knowing what can happen and achieving a great concentration level for few minutes. Thus turning off some protection to perfomr an impressive take off is acceptable (but I don't know if they did so). $\endgroup$
    – Manu H
    Oct 24, 2015 at 10:56

Paris Air Show was quite funny for that: you could see pilots the A350 and on the 787 take off as early and as steeply as possible. I remember seeing the pilot of the 787 progressively take off several meters earlier (possibly something like 20m).

Also, this video was not at Paris Air Show but somewhere near Seattle as far as I know. The ground is nothing like Paris nor near Paris nor continental France. It was also posted to youtube the day after the first take off of the 787 before this year's Paris Air Show: no way they had managed to make a proper video in only a few hours.

It's also important to keep in mind the planes are really empty when they do that: even the A380 manages to fare very well for such things. Now, add 600 people with luggage for a total weight of at least 100kg each (60 tonnes total) and add kerosene too: it'll be entirely different.

  • $\begingroup$ Pretty sure that's not near Seattle. The terrain looks nothing like Seattle (I see no mountains, and no ocean). The visible runway is labeled 14L, which does not match PAE, BFI, RNT, or SEA. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Jun 22, 2015 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ This article says it is "a runway in Washington state". More research shows that the pictures match Grant County International (MWH, also called Moses Lake), which is about 130 miles from Seattle. $\endgroup$
    – abelenky
    Jun 22, 2015 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ Sorry, misremembered a bit and I have to say that fitting "near Seattle" was a good enough approximation for my brain: 10000 miles away from me, 130 miles off. :) $\endgroup$ Jun 22, 2015 at 19:36
  • $\begingroup$ "The video was filmed above Moses Lake in Washington to offer the public “a first look at the demonstration Boeing is scheduled to fly” at the 2015 Paris Air Show, Boeing said in a press release on Thursday." - Source. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Jun 22, 2015 at 19:43
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    $\begingroup$ Yeah, I meant that people+luggage+clothes+seat would be roughly equal to 100kg. Don't remember which company had the issue of having way too many men in the plane compared to the number of women and had a plane which couldn't take off because of the weight then. IIRC they were planning on 70kg per individual, roughly like in elevators. $\endgroup$ Jun 23, 2015 at 6:22

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