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Ball in the Center!

Ex-Canadian Snowbird Ross Granley in his Yak-18T, taking off in formation with a Piper Pacer!

Why do I have a picture of Ross Granley flying formation on this page?  Why a takeoff picture?  So he's formating with a Piper Pacer (half the weight, 1/3 the power), so what?  What does formation flying have to do with pitch and power?  What's a Snowbird?  (They're the Canadian version of the Blue Angels or Thunderbirds-- I'm trying to tell you here that Ross is one smokin' good pilot!)  What's this pitch and power stuff all about anyway, and why am I making such a fuss about it?


Well, fact is there's lots of bad training going on out there, well intentioned, with a long history, but bad training nonetheless.  Most folks are taught to control airspeed with pitch and altitude with power, and lots of text books say that's the way to do it--and it almost works!  EXCEPT that when you're cruising, well, then the airplane flies a little different, see, so then we'll pitch to altitude and won't worry about airspeed at all!  What?  But if you ever fly airplanes with a little more power, that go faster, that can generate lots of induced drag--and high sink rates at low speed--or weigh more, or if you try to fly formation that way you're going to find out that what you were told and read just doesn't work, at least not very well.  So you'll become schizophrenic for a while trying to figure it out!  Maybe you'll stay schizophrenic!  And lots of people never do quite figure it out, regardless of what they're told or read.  How come?  Why can't we get this stuff straight?  What's going on here? 


Let's get our minds right on this, folks, and start talking the way we really fly.


Formation flying demonstrates in no uncertain terms the problems you'll have if you try to control altitude with power and airspeed with pitch.  In fact, its so fundamenatally counterintuitive, you probably won't even think of trying to fly that way.  Its just plain obvious:  hold station with pitch, roll and yaw (stick and rudder), power to the airspeed.  You don't pitch down to speed up, you add power.  You don't reduce power to descend, you put the nose down (and maybe reduce power, too, depending on speed requirements).  Got that?


But most of us never fly formation, so what about regular flying?  Isn't it different?  We're civilians!  What do we care about formation flying?!  Crikey!!!


OK, we're civilians (mostly).  But the airplane still flies the same.  Consider this:


You’re cruising along, thousands of feet above your destination and several miles out--time to descend.  How do you initiate the descent?  Adjust pitch or power?  How do you fly your desired descent profile?  Pitch or power?  At the speed you want?  Pitch or power?


Now you’re nearing your destination on a straight-in approach.  How do you maintain your desired descent profile while you simultaneously reduce speed so you can extend the gear and flaps?  Pitch or power?


You’re on final approach.  The gear and flaps are down.  You want to stay on profile while you slow to final approach speed.  Pitch or power?  What if you find yourself slow or fast or above or below profile?  What do you do then?  Pitch or power?


Your destination isn’t an airport--you want to fly through a barn, under a bridge or through the hole in a doughnut-shaped cloud, or make an inverted ribbon cut.  Just kidding.  But just how would do you do it, exactly?


Why am I asking such dumb questions?  You just do it, you say?


Really?  Just exactly how do you “just do it?”


Well, if any of these questions have ever entered your mind, you are not alone.  We were all student pilots once and had to solve these problems--what did you decide was the proper technique?  What did your instructor say?  How do you do it now, now that you’re a real pilot?


Next time you’re in the airport bar just ask some of your pilot friends for their opinions and the argument won’t just last all night, it’ll go on forever!


I bring this up because the simple task of descending (and proper rudder use) seems to cause more problems and confusion than any other.  There's an old saying that you can pretty well judge the skill of a pilot by just watching how she starts and taxis an airplane.  Better yet, watch how she descends, either during cruise or on approach.  Does she have a plan?  Is the descent smooth and at a particular speed?  Or does the descent proceed as a series of pitch, power and speed changes that just don't seem to have any particular point?


I’ve been going to FAA Flight Instructor Clinics for more than thirty-five years.  At every clinic I’ve attended, at some point one of the Clinic Instructors will ask:  “What controls airspeed?  Pitch or power?  Who says pitch?”  About one-third of the hands go up.  The next question is, “OK, what controls altitude?  Pitch or power?  Who says power?”  Again, about one-third of the hands go up.  The remaining one-third who didn’t raise their hands in response to either question are hedging their bets or just don’t know.  In both cases at least one-third are wrong!  Two-thirds are wrong or just don’t know!  These people are all flight instructors, the folks we rely on to teach us how to fly, to check us out in new airplanes and give us Biennial Flight Reviews.  They’re supposed to know how to control airspeed and altitude, how changing pitch or power affects the flight path and/or airspeed.  Yet fully one-third don’t even want to hazard a guess and another one-third give the wrong answer, assuming there is a correct answer.  Can two-thirds of the flight instructor community be so mistaken and/or confused?


Unfortunately, the answer is “yes.”  Unbelievable!  How can this be?  Stupid, student pilot questions, you say?  Then why so many different answers from people who are supposed to know what they’re talking about?  How did this sorry state of affairs come to pass?


As we look back on just over one-hundred years of controlled, powered flight, a couple of facts stand out, to me anyway.  First, the great discovery the Wrights made was that airplanes are not boats and the rudder doesn’t make the airplane turn (at least not very well).  More on that , later.  The other outstanding fact is that most privately owned and flown airplanes—like the ones you and I fly—have made major advances in handling qualities and engine reliability, especially since World War I.  Yes, you got that right:  World War ONE.  That was a long, long time ago.  But people still want to fly like its still 1917 and nobody really knew how this stuff worked, at least not very many did, and they didn't get much attention--and still haven't!  Not much has changed with airplanes in a long, long time.  That was the whole point of Lindbergh's 1927 Atlantic crossing:  airplanes are safe, the engines are reliable, flying is a science, not black magic only mastered by a few initiates.  Good Grief! 


The Wright brothers had it figured out!  So what went wrong?  What changed between the Wright brothers and WWI, then and now?  Or did they?


Some things haven’t changed, not even since before the Wrights.  Folks still confuse airplanes with boats.  To this day, most pilots still try to use the rudder to “turn” the airplane.  They won’t tell you that, but that’s how they fly.  And they still say they have to fly as though the engine might quit at any minute—emergency field in sight!  Just ask ‘em!  Of course, we don't really fly that way!  And we still think we can make airplanes levitate by using a little Body English (pulling back on the stick) to make them clear the trees at the end of the runway on climbout or approach.


Sadly, the FAA started requiring BFR’s back in the 70’s because we weren’t flying as well as we talked.  We talk a good line (or think we do), but we don’t fly so well.  Those of us who are CFI’s (who get to give you those Biennial Flight Reviews) know there are lots of pilots lacking basic proficiency, regardless of experience.  The rudder is still a big bugaboo.  The interplay of pitch and power, altitude and airspeed is another serious problem.  A high percentage of us talk one way, fly another and can’t discuss it rationally at all.  Just like those CFI’s who don’t know what controls altitude or airspeed!


Sometimes on a BFR or checkout I’ll say, just for fun and to break the monotony of basic maneuvers, something like, “Hey!  Let’s fly through that barn door down there!”  Or, “Hey!  Let’s fly under that bridge!”  At first, of course, they’re shocked.  Shocked!  Am I serious?  Do I really want them to do something crazy and probably illegal?  “Yes!”  I say, “Just make like you’re really gonna do it, and we’ll break off at a reasonable altitude, so it’ll be OK, nothing dangerous or illegal.  And, just to make it interesting, when you go through the barn door or under the bridge, let’s be at cruise airspeed or maybe approach speed.  Just for fun.”


And I am serious.  So we try to do it.  And try...and try...


They never have a clue how to do it.  Not a clue.  Not with both hands!  Amazing!  All you have to do is do it, right?  Isn’t that what you said?  Go back to the opening paragraphs above.  Just exactly, how do you do it?


One of my favorite and probably one of the best known “how to fly” books is Stick and Rudder, by Wolfgang Langewiesche.  First published as a series of magazine articles in the late 1930’s and then as a book in 1944, it’s been in continuous publication ever since, more than sixty years.  I read it when I was a student pilot and I’ve recommended it to friends and students for years.  Written on the cusp of the change from biplanes to Piper Cubs, Taylorcrafts and WWII, it deals with questions that were problematical for pilots in the 30’s and 40’s and are still problems today.  Yes, there have been many improvements and advances in the last sixty years, but the airplane control problem remains the same.  We still have trouble with that Stick and Rudder.


Although there is a lot of attention given to new avionics and the utility of business and on-demand flying--meaning IFR--the fact is, most of us fly in VFR conditions for purely recreational purposes.  We fly because it’s FUN!  The continuing popularity of fifty and sixty-year-old (!) airplanes, the proliferation of homebuilts and now Light Sport Aircraft should come as no surprise (and doesn't--even to the FAA--they're not stupid, either!).  As we all know, the love of flying and money in the pocket don’t necessarily go together.  $200K "basic" new airplanes (say “172”) notwithstanding, glass panels and all, almost all of the general aviation fleet is well over thirty years old, equipped and flown by pilots qualified for VFR flight only and priced at a small fraction of the cost of a new plane.  New aircraft prices have risen at whole multiples greater than the rate of inflation over the last thirty years, vastly exceeding the increase in wages.  No wonder they don’t sell so well.  So, despite rapidly dropping avionics costs and wonderful improvements for IFR flying, most of us are still flying the airplanes our fathers flew, pretty much just like Grandpa did back in the 30’s--VFR, needle, speedle and airball--navigating by looking out the window.  Biggest difference is we don’t much have a finger on the map anymore, now we have GPS to guide our way to the $100 hamburger.  Secret:  A glass panel is still connected to, you guessed it!  Stick and Rudder!


Airplanes today still fly pretty much the same way those Langewiesche wrote about all those years ago did, and we still crash and get killed and kill family and friends just like they did then, mostly approaching and departing the airport.


Because we still use the rudder to turn and can't figure out how to keep the airspeed or descent path where we want them to be.  Basic Stick and Rudder stuff.


Not much new you can say about that other big killer, uncontrolled flight into bad weather and the rocks therein, or mechanical failure, either, except that mechanical failure almost never happens any more.


So, what’s noteworthy about Stick and Rudder that makes it such a perennial favorite?  First, it’s about flying, not about rules, weather, navigation or the latest avionics.  Second, and most important, Langewiesche got it right.


But, I have a bone to pick.  My complaint isn’t about the book’s content, it’s about emphasis and over-simplification.  It’s about the change in the flying mindset since he wrote the book and the mind-set pilots had then and the mind-set we have today.  And I have a complaint about the FAA’s misleading questions about pitch and power.


OK, so what’s in Stick and Rudder and countless other “learn to fly” books that's problematic.  If he “got it right,” what’s wrong?


Langewiesche makes two major points, whole chapters worth, that have been misleading pilots for generations.  The first:  pitch to airspeed.  The second:  power to altitude.  Sound familiar?  Was he wrong?  No.  But it's only true in some situations.


Plus, you don’t fly a 172 or Cherokee or a 747 the same way you would fly a 1920’s Waco or Travelair, or even a J-3.  We’ve come a long way since biplanes, A-65’s, Hisso’s, Liberty’s and OX-5’s, romantic nostalgia notwithstanding.  Even if the basic principles are the same, we’ve learned a lot about how to fly safely in the last sixty years.


Not many of us have flown pre-WW II biplanes, or pre-WW II monoplanes, either.  Too bad you didn’t fly my 1939 Fairchild F24R9 with that sweet running Ranger inverted inline 6-cylinder engine when you had the chance, partner!  Now she’s gone, gone, gone!  Oh, well.  Yes, there are still lots of Fairchilds, Waco’s, Travelairs, J-3’s and Aeronca Champs around, but most of us are flying Cessna 172’s, 182’s and Piper Cherokees.  There is a big difference between an old biplane and a J-3, both with no flaps, and a 172 or Cherokee.


Langewiesche was writing for pilots whose mental concept of an airplane was a biplane that had the glide ratio of a manhole cover, had no flaps and was powered by a genuinely unreliable engine.  If not a biplane it was one of them newfangled little J-3’s or T-Crafts that glided pretty well..."but you never can trust that engine!"  Really?  When was the last time you had an engine quit?  Maybe they were thinking about those Rotary engines that had two throttle positions:  off and on. To make it even more interesting, Langewiesche was a test pilot for ERCO, manufacturer of the Ercoupe, the airplane with a brake pedal where the rudder pedals usually reside, so he had an even different take on this stuff.  You sure don't fly an Ercoupe (or Aircoupe) like you fly a Curtiss Jenny or like you fly a 172 or 747...


A few other things: some that haven't changed and others that have that are the real reason for the emphasis and over-simplification.  Ever read your Pilot's Operating Handbook?  Do you have a copy in your airplane or flight bag?  Good for you.  Sixty years ago there was no requirement for a POH, so not all airplanes had them--and they were pretty basic, at best.  I've flown old airplanes with a single sheet of paper called the "Flight Manual."   Even my old B-17 and B-29 flight manuals are only about the size of 172 POH.  That didn't change (for us civilians) until the 70's!  Another thing that hasn't changed:  Ever try to go to some short, narrow, one-way in and one-way out, high elevation runway in a canyon in the mountains on a hot, windy day, without mountain flying training?  Try to take off from a short runway loaded way over gross or out of CG?  Use Body English (pull back on the stick) to get your 40hp (or 300hp) airplane to clear those trees at the end of the runway?  Of course not!  But people did/do and the results are the same now as sixty years ago.


Look:  99 and 44/100% of accidents are the result of Pilot Error, Dumb Pilot Tricks.  Basic Stick and Rudder stuff.  Mechanical failure almost never happens any more.


So, let's put Langewiesche's book in context:  In the 1930’s and 40’s there were still a lot of pilots around who had been flying airplanes with genuinely unreliable engines and had received what can only be described as haphazard flight instruction.  And they just loved Dumb Pilot Tricks!  Not like today?  Really?  We've still got the same old favorites.  Classics "jokes" like:  "Wanna go up?  Pitch up (but don't add power).  Wanna go down?  Pitch up some more!"  Ha ha ha! Even during WW II, the military had lots of misconceptions about how to fly.  I guess that’s why more pilots were killed in training than in combat!  Then, as now, most fatal accidents were the result of an inadvertent stall and subsequent spin to the ground while departing or arriving at the airport.  It was such a big problem (and still is) that it caused the design, operation and maintenance of aircraft to change, by law.  That’s why we have the FAA, BFR’s, FAR’s, licensed pilots and mechanics and “certificated” airplanes.  It led to “rudderless” airplanes like Ercoupes, interconnected rudders and ailerons, wings with “washout” and much more reliable engines.  Nosewheels, too.  All Good Stuff.  Waldo Pepper had to get a license to fly!  That's why Langewiesche wrote his book.


To give him proper credit, he notes that those techniques only apply to certain situations (mostly only on takeoff and emergency landings) and don’t usually usually apply to higher powered, “modern airplanes” (“Army pursuit ships”) or to situations where power is available and variable, especially on approach.  But that’s in the fine print.  The bold statement is power to altitude, pitch to airspeed.  Sometimes that's right, especially when the power is voluntarily fixed at full throttle like on takeoff.  But he doesn't distinguish between takeoff and approach.  And then he goes on to say that you can pitch UP to descend to the glide path!  Yes, it works, in some circumstances, and is a fun little exercise in flight path control, but it’s a crazy idea if you’re trying to make a stabilized, power-on approach in an airplane with flaps, like you normally would in a 172 or Cherokee or a 747.  And he says as much in the fine print.  You don't fly a takeoff like you do an approach, most of the time.


He’s talking about 1) making approaches while flying biplanes or J-3’s with no flaps;  and 2) assuming that everyone adheres to the crazy old notion (like lots of pilots did then--and even now) that every approach should be the same as for an emergency landing, namely, POWER OFF, because that OX-5 might just quit when you need it most! 


We aren’t flying those kinds of airplanes or engines much any more.  And we don't usually do power off landing approaches, either.  Not even in J-3's or old biplanes.  Langewiesche was a test pilot who enjoyed and got paid to explore the flight envelope (me, too).  He wasn't suggesting you should fly that way all the time!


He's trying to correct some old notions about flying and show you that variations in airspeed have a serious effect on airplane performance, especially at LOW airspeeds like takeoff and approach, and trying to keep you from having a stall-spin accident on takeoff or short final.  Spot ON!  But let's put things in perspective--we just don't fly like that most of the time, especially on approach.


So what about the FAA's question?  What’s the correct answer?  And what’s misleading about it?  Here’s what the FAA tells us CFI’s at those clinics:


“When power is available and variable, pitch controls altitude and power controls airspeed.”  If that comes as a surprise, you and/or your instructor were one of those two-thirds who didn’t read the fine print in Stick and Rudder and/or just doesn’t believe what the FAA (and Langewiesche) has been preaching for many, many years.


Just like Langewiesche, they're over-emphasizing a simplistic point to drill home a basic concept.  Fortunately, the Feds aren't stupid and have gotten it right at the CFI Clinics.  And they've almost got it right in their latest "how to fly" book, the Airplane Flying Manual, but in print they still emphasize controlling airspeed with pitch--the opposite of what they tell us CFI's!  That's only correct part of the time.  Like Langewiesche, they'e trying to make a point and keep you from having a stall-spin accident on climbout or the turn from base leg to final approach.


They're rhetorical questions (and answers) intended to make us think!


Here's the actual, complete facts, acknowledged by both Langewiesche and the FAA in their books and at CFI Clinics, and the military and the airlines, too:


You can’t change pitch OR power without affecting BOTH altitude AND airspeed!


But most of us still have it backwards because we don't read the fine print!  And old dogs just won't die!


Here's a few more little situations for examples:


If you’re cruising along and notice you are fifty feet below (or above) your cruise altitude, do you pitch to the desired altitude or adjust power?  I’ll bet 99% of you will answer, “pitch to the altitude.”  Of course.  You won’t even think about changing power.  Just like the FAA says, you’ll pitch to the altitude.  Works pretty well, too.  Maybe a skosh of power adjustment just to speed up the process and keep the airspeed from dropping while you climb.


Here's another one:  If you’re close-in on approach and get a little slow, will you pitch down or add power to accelerate back to your target speed?  I can just see it--a bunch of you will hem and haw, squirm around and qualify your answer because close-in you’re pretty low, but then say “pitch down.”  And then defiantly add that you have to add POWER to get back on the vertical profile!


Well, you got that partly right--but you got it BACKWARDS!!  You’d better add POWER, partner, to speed up, and simultaneously pitch down to stay on profile!


Why do I agree you need to “pitch down”?  Because when you ADD POWER to speed up, the airplane is going to PITCH UP all by itself.  So you push forward on the stick to pitch down (actually, to keep the airplane from automatically pitching up) to stay on your desired flight path.  I think maybe you and/or your instructor read Stick and Rudder and didn’t notice the fine print! 


Did your instructor keep telling you to add power if you were low and to pitch down if you were slow?  Wrong!  Even if it seems to work most of the time!  You just haven’t been paying attention!  You got it backwards!


Here’s another situation:  You’re on an ILS approach and a little above the glide slope.  Will you reduce power or pitch down?  A lot of you will say “reduce power.”  OK.  Reduce power—here’s what’s really going to happen:  The pitch is going to change, too, all by itself, while you're not looking.  The airplane will pitch down, all by itself, so you descend, because your power reduction caused the airspeed to drop, resulting in the trim trying to maintain equilibriun (by maintaining trim speed), so the airplane pitches down and you descend to the glide slope!  You got it backwards, again!  But only in your mind, because your power change caused the airplane to pitch down SIMULTANEOUSLY, all by itself, causing you to descend to the glide slope.  Got that?


Here’s the magic part you forgot about:  When you reduce power the airplane will pitch down all by itself!  The airplane is maintaining designed and riveted-in trim equilibrium.  Voila!  You descend!  You think it was because you reduced power, but it was really because the airplane pitched down all by itself in response to your power reduction!  The FAA requires airplanes to fly that way!  If you ADD power the airplane will automatically pitch UP to maintain trim.  That's why you find yourself pushing forward on the stick when you add power on short final--to keep from pitching up too much!


Here's the exception the FAA and Langewiesche were writing about and trying to drill into you so you don't get yourself killed:  When you’re CLIMBING with FULL POWER and want a particular climb speed (like Vy--best rate of climb--or Vx, best angle of climb), or have an engine failure--NO POWER AVAILABLE--and are trying to maintain proper approach speed on short final to that farmer's field, YOU HAVE NO CHOICE but to pitch to the airspeed.  Those are the times the power's not available--no power if the engine has quit--or its not variable because you're already at full power and want a particular performance speed!  Of course, you probabaly have drag and lift devices you could use, like flaps, that affect airspeed, too, and you could even slip to add drag to slow down on approach or to prevent acceleration on a steep approach.  But they're trying to keep it simple.  Of course, we know better--we've got lots of options.


As long as the engine is running, climbout at full throttle is the ONLY time you really have no choice but to pitch to the airspeed.  At cruise you pitch to the altitude, set the power and take whatever speed you get.  Yes, I know the airlines and military will sometimes adjust speed (by adjusting power and pitch) to make schedule, especially flying Air Force One, and gliders, especially when racing, are sometimes flown at particular performance speeds while "cruising" by adjusting pitch (no power to adjust--only gravity!)  But those are exceptions that don't apply to most of us, most of the time. 


Can you pitch to the airspeed?  Yes, but it’ll affect your altitude, too.  Can you power to the altitude?  Yes, but pitch will automatically change, too--the real cause of the altitude change--it’s imprecise and doesn’t necessarily provide immediate results and will likely lead to Pilot Induced Oscillation as you fight the power to set the altitude.  That's why it has never enetered your mind to power to altitude or pitch to airspeed at cruise. 


But when it comes to making a descent or an approach we become confused and tell ourselves we need to pitch to the airspeed, like we did on initial climb-out, and power to the altitude.  Wrong!


In fact, we use both.  We pitch to the altitude and power to the airspeed, SIMULTANEOUSLY!  You can’t change one without affecting the other!


If you pitch up to climb without increasing power, your speed will go down.  If you add power without adjusting pitch (down), you will climb because of the increase in airspeed and the airplane’s built in trim equilibrium that causes it to pitch up.  If you extend the landing gear or add flaps you will increase drag, the opposite of adding power, reducing your speed, the airplane will automatically pitch down and you’ll descend unless you pitch up to compensate. 


Of course, there are always what seem to be exceptions.  Every airplane requires a slightly different technique, for a variety of reasons not related to the basic principles we're talking about.  For instance, just to make it interesting and confuse you, lots of airplanes, high-wings especially, will give an initial un-commanded pitch up and/or climb (“balloon”) with flap extension, giving you a further reduction in speed and putting you above your intended vertical profile unless you pitch down to compensate.  That's because the flap extension temporarily added lift (hence the climb) until the increased drag could slow you down. 


Regardless, HERE'S THE MAIN THING:  If you get low and slow with gear and flaps extended you’d better pitch up to get back on profile AND add power to maintain or accelerate to your desired speed.


Pitch OR power?  It's a rhetorical question designed to stimulate thought.  It’s almost never just one or the other, except on initial climb-out and during cruise, when the power is usually fixed, voluntarily.  “When power is available and variable, pitch controls altitude and power controls airspeed.”  That’s right, but usually it’s done simultaneously, not just one or the other.  If you’re low or slow or high or fast, you pitch to the altitude and power to the airspeed at the same time.  Fly the descent profile at the proper speed with pitch and power.  Descend from cruise by pushing the nose down to the desired descent profile and adjust power to get the speed you want.  To decelerate on approach, pitch to the desired descent profile and reduce power to slow to the desired airspeed.  You also use the flaps and landing gear to add drag and reduce speed.  Need to slow some more?  When the gear is down and flaps fully extended, pitch to the altitude and simultaneously power to the airspeed.


It’s usually not an “either-or,” it’s a “both-and.”  Even in gliders, on descent and landing you automatically pitch to the vertical profile and extend or retract drag devices (landing gear, spoilers, dive brakes, flaps) to control airspeed, simultaneously.  Even if you're telling yourself it works the other way.


So...  Next time you’re flying along and think you want to fly through a barn or under a bridge, or want to make an inverted ribbon pick-up, simultaneously pitch to the altitude and power to the airspeed.  Nothing to it, really.  Piece of cake.


One last thing.  You think this pitch and power stuff is just nit-picking?  Details?  Then why are there so many stall-spin accidents?  One of my high school science teachers was killed, and his whole family, too, in a takeoff stall-spin accident.  Pretty important detail!


There’s one more detail:  What about that rudder?


Aerobatics are fun--in the right place at the right altitude. Remember this:  you can’t do spins or snap rolls with the ball in the center, no matter how hard you try.  Repeat:  you can’t spin with the ball in the center.  Let me put it this way:  No matter how much you want to really impress your friends by making that low altitude turn to final with lots of rudder and opposite aileron so you can do that quick little snap roll into the dirt, it just ain't gonna happen if you keep the ball in the center!  NO WAY!!!  Which just means don't use lots of rudder and opposite aileron on that turn to final--keep the ball in the center which means NO UNEXPECTED SPINS!!!   There are better ways to impress your friends.  And you won't spin if you stall on climbout either.  Keep the ball in the cage!!!


Spins and snap rolls are lots of fun, but not if you're not expecting them and you're too low to recover.


Langewiesche knew all about the rudder and that its misuse can be deadly and gives it plenty of ink in Stick and Rudder.  He wasn't a test pilot for nothing.  But sometimes you need to read the fine print to pick up on the point being made.  Pitch to altitude, power to the airspeed, TOGETHER.


One more thing.  Did your instructor tell you to clear the area before you started any maneuver?  Tell you to look before you turn?  It’s right in the Practical Test Standards—don’t do clearing turns and you’ll fail the check ride.  Yes, it’s a good idea to look before you leap. 


But while and after you look, you’d better pay attention to what else you’re doing.  Any time you’re transitioning from straight flight to a turn or vice versa, bring your eyes back inside the cockpit and notice where the ball is and what you're doing with pitch, altitude and airspeed.  Get the ball in the middle!  Check the airspeed, too!  Watch that rate of climb and the altitmeter!  Make a smooth roll into the bank, ease back on the stick to keep from losing altitude (remember, that G-load you feel in the turn is the extra lift needed to both turn and maintain altitude).  Then you can concentrate on bank angle and altitude without having to correct for that big descent or zoom you made while you were looking out the side window and not paying attention to what you were doing!


Fly a stabilized approach with the trim properly adjusted so you don’t have to fight the airplane all the way to the ground!  Give yourself enough room on base to get stabilized, room enough on final to make adjustments and get stabilized.  Then sit back and relax!  And keep that ball in the middle when you turn!  If you’re not comfortable, GO AROUND!  Don’t force it!  Don’t get fixated on the runway—scan the panel, too!  Pitch and power, ball in the center! 


And remember, the Wright brothers were right!  Airplanes ain’t boats!  And that's about 99% of all you'll ever need to know about flying airplanes.
See you at the airport bar--next round's on me!
Best regards,
Jerry Painter

Company LogoWild Blue Aviation
Hangar 28
18228 59th Dr. NE, Arlington, WA, 98223 USA
Arlington Municipal Airport (KAWO)
mail to:  1521 Wetmore Ave., Everett, WA 98201-2057, USA
phone 425-876-0865