I don’t want anyone to purchase these Aeroplane Flight Training notes under any misapprehension.
I hold a commercial aeroplane and helicopter license for both VFR and IFR operations, but although I am a highly qualified helicopter flight instructor, I am not an aeroplane flight instructor, but these notes were written in conjunction with two of the leading flight schools in my region in Australia.
This sample contains around 5% of the full publication.
03 – STRAIGHT & LEVEL
The performance of any aircraft, from a Jumbo Jet down to a Cessna 150 or a Robinson R-22 helicopter, is a function of the power and the attitude.
In an aeroplane, POWER (throttle) + ATTITUDE (control column) = PERFORMANCE (speed and height).
Flying ‘Straight & Level’ means flying at a constant heading and constant height with the aircraft balanced and trimmed. At this stage, although the track over the ground isn’t important, the difference between heading and track will be pointed out to you if there’s enough wind to create a difference. If there is a cross-wind, it’s important to understand that once you establish a heading that offsets the wind drift and maintains a constant track over the ground, the aircraft is in balanced flight in there are no additional control pressures that need trimming out.
This is another sequence that’s unlikely to be mastered in one lesson.
Expect your instructor to keep prompting you about keeping the wings level and using the pedals to maintain balance, if they don’t, you may carry these faults for most of your flying career. It’s always much better to spend a bit more time getting the basics right before moving on to another lesson.
FLYING BY FEEL AND OUTSIDE REFERENCE
MAINTAINING BALANCE BY FEEL
These explanations assume you’re sitting comfortably with your back resting against the seat, and your head upright in relation to your body.
If your head’s in line with your spine, regardless of whether you’re flying straight and level, turning, climbing or descending, you should be able to nod your head up and down without feeling a strain in the side of your neck (try tilting your head to one side now, and then nod your head up and down). If you still don’t believe me, put a couple of books under your chair legs on one side and try sitting there for a while, you’ll soon see why it’s better have the aircraft level and you sitting upright in the seat.
Sitting comfortably also reduces the chances of back problems in the long term, and makes you more capable of doing a long day’s work without getting excessively tired.
If you sit correctly, when the aircraft is in a 30o bank angle, your eyes will be angled 30o from the horizon, which gives you the correct impression of the bank angle, whereas if you lean to one side, your eyes will be giving you a false indication of the angle of bank (or telling you there is one when there isn’t – or there isn’t one when there is).
If the aircraft’s flying left side low, your upper body will be trying to slide over to the left, and you’ll feel the left side of your back (just under your left shoulder) pushing into the seat as it tries to keep you upright (lean to the side while your reading this and you’ll see what I mean).
When you feel this, if you press just enough left pedal to remove this pressure and make your back feel comfortable, you’ll find the balance ball’s very close to being in the middle (vice versa with a right bank angle).
If the balance ball’s out to the left, you’d turn the nose to the left in order to bring the ball back to the middle, so do the same if your upper body’s trying to move out to the left (in reality, you’re using your upper body as a balance ball). Don’t try and fly by instruments and ‘stand on the ball’ as often stated, look at your reference point out front and turn the nose slightly to the left, and then cross-check the balance ball to see if you’ve turned the nose the correct amount.
This works regardless of whether you’re making a power change, flying straight and level, in a turn, or any combination of these. If there’s no pressure on your back to keep you upright in relation to the seat, i.e. – your back’s at right angles to the floor of the aeroplane, and you’re in balance (or very close to it).
Don’t believe me, try it for yourself. Get the aircraft balanced in straight and level flight and then push one pedal and you’ll see the balance ball slide out in the opposite direction.
Let’s say you pushed the left pedal, making the ball (and your upper body) slide out to the right. Without looking at the balance ball, push the right pedal until your back feels comfortable and then check how close the balance ball is to the middle. Then get the aircraft in a balanced turn and push the downhill pedal, which will cause the ball to slide uphill. Once again, without looking at the balance ball push the uphill pedal until your back feels comfortable and then check how close the balance ball is to the middle.
Once you master this, the balance ball becomes a ‘cross reference’ only, regardless of whether you’re VFR or IFR.
Remember, your passengers don’t know whether you’re a good pilot or not, they only know whether or not they felt comfortable during the flight, and as you very rarely fly with your peers, this is one of the main sources of feedback that goes toward developing your reputation as a pilot.
If you want more speed, increase the power and progressively lower the nose to reduce the angle of attack as the speed increases in order to maintain the same value of lift. If you want to slow down, decrease the power and progressively raise the nose.
Don’t raise or lower the nose unless you want a speed change.
When operating an aeroplane fitted with a constant speed propeller, you should avoid a combination of high manifold pressure and low RPM, which is called over-boosting the engine.
The procedure for changing power in an aeroplane fitted with a constant speed propeller is as follows:-
- When increasing power, increase the RPM before increasing the MP, i.e. – pitch UP, power UP.
- When decreasing power, decrease the MP before decreasing the RPM.
- Regardless of how many lessons it takes, you shouldn’t move on from this lesson until the basics are ingrained to the extent that the next lesson of CLIMBING & DESCENDING will reinforce then and make them second nature.
- If you move on before the student’s reasonably proficient at coordinating their control movements, they’ll be behind the eight ball for the rest of their training.
- If pre-flight inspections haven’t been covered in the earlier lessons, this is a good time to start.
- Make sure you’re teaching them to fly by attitude, and only using the instruments to check that the aeroplane IS doing what they want it to, and if not, the corrections must be performed while watching the attitude.
- To achieve this, there must be a clear and easily definable horizon, if there’s not, don’t conduct this lesson unless the student’s at an advanced stage.
- Watch for signs of tenseness, and make sure they’re holding the controls correctly. It’s far easier to teach them correctly in the beginning than to fix bad habits later.
- As the student becomes more proficient, draw their attention to the flight instruments, and show them how the indications on the flight instruments are directly related to the attitude of the aeroplane in relation to the horizon. Don’t let the student get a ‘head in the cockpit’ complex.
- Make sure the student understands the need for a good lookout.
08 – EMERGENCIES
- This is a topic that’s largely ignored by many Instructors.
- Most of what’s covered here won’t be demonstrated for obvious reasons, some will be simulated, such as aborted take-offs, communications failure and covering some instruments to get you used to using other instruments to achieve your aim, but I doubt your instructor will start a fire in the cockpit to see how you respond.
- Being mentally prepared by already knowing the wind direction and availability of suitable landing sites can save critical seconds in an emergency.
- The most important thing to remember if an emergency does occur, is to maintain a safe airspeed and full control of the aeroplane. There’s no point in working out that it was the ‘XYZ’ that failed if you run into a mountain or turn upside-down while you’re working it out.
- There’s an old saying that’ll never become outdated, AVIATE – NAVIGATE – COMMUNICATE, which is a spin-off from Air Navigation Charts. This means that under emergency (or normal) conditions, but particularly in an emergency situation, your first priority is to fly the aircraft, your second priority is to make sure it’s going where you wanted to go, and your third priority is to tell someone what’s happening to you.
- An emergency requires a good understanding of what you need to do, and some accurate flying.
- Most emergencies can be handled with far less effort if the pilot has a good understanding of the aircraft they’re flying (in order to know what to do), and are able to fly accurately (so the aircraft does what the pilot wants it to do with the minimum of effort).
- If this can be done with as little mental effort as possible, it leaves more of the brain’s processing power available to think ahead and plan the next move, without having to concentrate heavily on flying the aircraft.
- If you aren’t sure what to do and/or you’re not used to flying accurately, your entire processing power will be concentrated on what you’re trying to do at that instant, which means it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to think about all the other things that must be done in order to achieve a successful outcome.
- If all your flying’s sloppy, you have very little chance of being able to fly accurately when under the added stress of an emergency. However, if accurate flying’s second nature, you’re 1/2 way there, so make sure you fly accurately all the time, e.g. – I want to cruise and 93 kts at 1,020 feet, or, on this approach when I reach that shed I want to have an airspeed of 90 knots with a medium approach angle, and when I get to that spot I want to be at 60 knots with the same approach angle. If you’re able to ensure the aeroplane’s always doing exactly what you want it to do, an emergency won’t be such a handful, and more of your mental capabilities can be used to sort out the problem and make a plan of action.
EMERGENCIES DURING & IMMEDIATELY AFTER TAKE-OFF
If you’re having second thoughts about the success of a take-off, abort it immediately.
The procedure is:-
- close the throttle fully, apply the relevant amount of brake pressure, and keep the aeroplane straight with rudder as you’re braking;
- taxi clear of the runway and investigate the cause of the problem;
- if it was an error of judgement, taxi back to the take-off point and start again;
- if it was a mechanical or system problem that caused you to abort, either shut-down on the taxi way, or if possible, taxi back to maintenance.
ENGINE FAILURE AFTER TAKE-OFF
If the engine fails before turning on base, maintain a safe airspeed and DO NOT attempt to turn back to your take-off area.
Your first priority is to control the aircraft, and then look for the best place to land that’s within your view through the front windscreen for an engine failure shortly after take-off. Don’t divert your attention to making radio calls or trying to start the engine until you have the aircraft under control and you’re heading toward a suitable landing area.
Obviously, the higher you are when the engine fails, the greater choice you have in selecting a landing site, and the more time you have to make a Mayday call and ascertain if it’s worthwhile trying to restart the engine.
To establish some baseline figures, when you’re at a safe height over a safe area, establish the configuration (attitude, speed, flaps, etc) you’d have shortly after take-off, note the altitude, close the throttle and make a sharp 180o turn as if you were attempting to return to the airfield, and note the altitude when you’re on the reverse heading. The difference is the height you’d lose if you attempted to turn back after an engine failure on take-off that you knew was going to occur. You’d have to add at least 25% to this to allow for the reaction time following an unexpected engine failure.
If you repeat the exercise and commence a ‘take-off’ climb from a known height (simulating the aerodrome height) as you cross a road or some other recognisable feature (simulating the departure end of the runway), and then after you’ve climbed 200’, close the throttle and commence a 180o turn, and note where you are in relation to that feature (the departure end of the runway) when you get back to the height you were at when you commenced the climb (the aerodrome height), you’ll see where you’d be in relation to the aerodrome when you got back to ground level (i.e. – crashed).
These two quick checks will make it quite clear that you can’t get back to the airport if you have an engine failure during the initial take-off climb.
11 – NAVIGATION
Regardless of what sort of aircraft you’re in, ‘navigating’ implies flying in a certain direction, at a known speed, for a given time, to arrive at a pre-planned destination.
The introduction of GPS has seen the demise of visual navigational skills, but I hope this section will inspire you to look outside and do some visual navigation. You never know, it might save you one day if the GPS fails.
MAP READING EXERCISE
This is an extract from the MELBOURNE (Australia) World Aeronautical Chart (WAC) enlarged to 150% of its original size (if you’re viewing this as an eBook, the size of the chart that’s on your screen depends on the device you’re using).
It shows a track from Lakes Entrance to Bendoc. As measured, the track is 043o/59nm, and the variation is 13o East, making the track 030o (M).
If you’re able to expand the illustrations, do so until the length of the Lakes Entrance/Bendoc track on this chart that’s expanded to 150% of the original is 235mm (9.25”).
On your Easterly flight to overhead Lakes Entrance, you found that your groundspeed was way less than planned, and you figured that a strong Easterly had blown up after you’d flight planned, so the heading you worked out for the next leg of your flight from Lakes Entrance to Bendoc won’t be accurate.
Study the above chart carefully to see how you’d determine if you were on track on your flight from Lakes Entrance to Bendoc.
When studying a chart, take note of the following points:-
- When you see dark shading (1) between high and low ground, it represents a steep gradient.
- When you see a sharp kink (2) in a road or river, it usually means the turn is to avoid high ground (or to follow a ridge line if it’s on high ground).
- When you see the end of a creek or river (3), it’s actually the start of it, and it’ll flow downhill from there before joining a larger creek or river.
When you’ve done this (and not before) scroll down to see what I’ve detailed as good reference points.
Sometimes these require accurate estimates to be made of the required direction and distance, often without the use of protractors and rulers.
You should practice this at home by estimating the direction and distance between two points on a map and then checking your accuracy with a protractor and ruler. Use your forefinger and little finger as described in the previous paragraph, or measure the length of your forefinger (tip to knuckle) on a WAC and use that as a rough guide for distance. You could also mark a pen or pencil that you keep in your pocket in 10 nm intervals. See the above paragraphs for more details on feature identification.
Another aspect of navigation that you can practise without any costs involved is the identification of features. Drop a spinning pencil onto a chart and decide how you’d identify the features at the tip of the pencil if you were travelling along the pencil toward the tip.
To check the features between where you are and where you want to go on a map without a track drawn on it, hold the map at an angle so you’re looking along the required flight path, and the features you see would make the track quite evident. If you hold a page of text at an angle, and look diagonally from the bottom right corner to the top left corner, you’ll see the individual letters on the page that would form your track if you were flying from one corner to another.
12 – BASIC INSTRUMENT FLYING
This sequence is an introduction to the basics of instrument flying that’s required for flying at night; it’s not intended to make you an instrument pilot.
If the attitude changes, the aircraft will pitch and/or roll, which will alter your altitude, speed, and/or heading, whereas if you maintain a constant attitude and keep the aircraft in balance, it’ll maintain a constant flight path unless disturbed by turbulence.
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it sounds, and if the visibility’s such that you can’t see the real horizon, you must get your attitude reference from the (much smaller) artificial horizon.
This takes some time to master and doesn’t give the same sense of being in control as the real horizon does.
There are a number of different scan techniques that can be used, and the layout of the instrument panel may dictate which one’s best for that aircraft, and your instructor may have one that they like to use. Regardless of which scan pattern you use, all the important instruments must be checked frequently enough to ensure the aircraft doesn’t move too far away from its intended flight path before that instrument’s re-visited.
The most common one is the ‘T’ scan, where the artificial horizon (attitude indicator) is situated above the directional gyro (heading indicator), with the airspeed indicator to the left of the AH and the altimeter to the right. The VSI is usually below the altimeter, and the turn coordinator below the ASI.
If the fore & aft attitude changes, the VSI will indicate the changing altitude before there’s a change in the altimeter reading or the airspeed indicator, and the scan pattern I’ve shown here is a modification of the ‘T’ scan to include the VSI in with the others.
It’s conducted as follows:-
- Artificial Horizon – Directional Gyro – Artificial Horizon
- Artificial Horizon – VSI – Altimeter – Artificial Horizon
- Artificial Horizon – Directional Gyro – Artificial Horizon
- Artificial Horizon – ASI – Turn Coordinator – Artificial Horizon
This type of scan that concentrates on the AH is essential to aircraft that respond to an attitude change quickly enough that they’re likely to exceed IFR height tolerances before the AI is re-visited. Helicopters and high performance aeroplanes fall into this category.
The engine instruments and navigation instruments don’t require such intense scanning, and are scanned at less regular intervals (maybe every five or so scans of the primary instruments).
Regardless of the type of scan used, there are three essential ingredients that must be included, they are :-
SCAN – As discussed above, all the instruments must be scanned regularly, with the artificial horizon (attitude indicator) being included in every scan.
INTERPRETATION – If an instrument isn’t showing the reading that you consider to be correct for the current flight manoeuvre, you must cross check the other instruments before making a correction. For example, if the airspeed’s low, is it because of an incorrect power setting or an incorrect attitude, and if you don’t cross check the other instruments before deciding what to do, you may well aggravate the situation.
RECTIFICATION – Having determined what action to take, make the adjustment, and wait the appropriate time before either making another adjustment or deciding that your initial change has fixed the problem.
RECOVERY FROM AN UNUSUAL ATTITUDE
Let me make one very important point before we discuss this.
To get into an unusual attitude means you’ve lost control of the aircraft, and if you lose control of the aircraft whilst you were trying to maintain control, the chance of you being able to recover is almost nil. So don’t think this amount of training qualifies you to fly through cloud, or in other non-visual conditions.
Recovery from unusual attitude procedures assumes the aircraft has got into that attitude whilst you were otherwise engaged, not that you were unable to maintain control.
When recovering from an unusual attitude without visual reference, it’s vitally important that you don’t aggravate the situation by moving a control in the wrong direction, and for this reason it’s strongly suggested you don’t try to make multiple changes at the same time.
The aim of the recovery is to regain straight and level flight, once that’s regained then, and not before, the correct heading and altitude can be restored.