Can airplanes take off at 90 degrees?

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Getty Images | Bruce Bennett

Are you afraid of flying? Well, maybe you should skip this article.

Every once in awhile, a video will go viral that appears to show an airplane taking off from the runway straight up. When you are used to watching planes ascend at a gentle rise, it can be a little jarring to watch a plane suddenly shoot up into the sky at 90 degrees — kind of like a reverse roller coaster.

Here, watch this video of a Boeing 737 Max doing it:

Excuse me, I just need a second for my stomach to get out of my throat. So, it’s pretty visually stunning. But is it real? Yes and no.

These stunts are performed at air shows by experienced pilots in planes without passengers or their luggage (i.e. the planes weigh a lot less than they do on commercial flights). And while it might look like a 90-degree takeoff, the angle isn’t quite that steep in reality.

“Some of what you’re seeing on takeoff is a trick of perspective,” pilot Patrick Smith told CNN at an air show where the trick was performed. “It looks like the takeoff is at a near vertical 90 degree angle. Trust me, it’s not.”

This angle gives you a little better view of what exactly is happening during the takeoff:

So, it might not be exactly 90 degrees, but it’s steep still enough for me to take the bus.


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About the Author
Mitchell Byars
Mitchell Byars was born and raised in Hawaii and currently lives in Boulder, Colorado, where he is a reporter. On his free time, he likes to golf, swim and enjoy a nice beer.

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