Back to the Basic of Flying

Lesson Four - Back to the Basics

The ASES and ASEL PTS require that you demonstrate a short field accuracy landing within 200 feet for a Private and 100 feet for a Commercial Pilot. Airspeed must be within +5/-5. Boy, do I have to guess at this one most of the time. Yet when I demonstrate landing after landing I put it exactly on the spot.

SO CAN YOU! — IF you learn, understand and practice this exercise I am about to teach you.

The title for this series is: Back to the Basics: Pitch, Power, and Trim, a Philosophy to Fly by, a Philosophy to Survive by.

Ask the next pilot you come across, “What controls airspeed?” If he doesn’t state it this way or if you cannot state it this way, you do not know or understand it either. “What controls airspeed?”

Proper answer: “When power is fixed (all the way on or all the way off), pitch controls airspeed. When power is variable, power controls airspeed.”

Pitch, Power, and Trim Exercise No. 1

Now, the exercise: Climb to a normal altitude for practice (at least 1500 ft AGL) and set up for level flight, aircraft trimmed to hands-off flight. Just sit there and watch things. Altitude should not change (do this on a calm day), airspeed should be steady.

Note the pitch of the aircraft, the nose in relation to the horizon, i.e. how many inches below the horizon is the top of your cowling? Note the indication on your attitude indicator, (horizontal horizon if you’re an old guy). Note the indicated airspeed and teach settings or manifold settings if you’re using a constant speed. Note the trim position indicator.

Really study and lock in your mind’s eye what you see. You will use these visuals when you begin to practice the visualization exercise we will do in a later newsletter.

If you have done the above, make both mental and written notes of exactly what you see. You’re now ready for the next phase of the exercise. A good pilot knows his airplane! What will yours do if you reduce power 300 RPM’s? What will it do if you increase power 300 RPMs? What will the airspeed do if you decrease power 300 RPMs and let it descend? Do not touch the trim! Did you know? What did your airspeed do?

OK! While at straight and level flight begin to reduce your power 100 RPM at a time, maintaining your exact altitude and trimming to hands-off flight between each power reduction. Take your time — what you are doing is important. Note how much the airspeed changes with each power reduction. Note the amount of change and REMEMBER how much it is, write it down.

Continue performing this exercise until you are at minimum control speed. Minimum control speed is defined as that speed at which any further increase in back pressure will give you an indication of a stall. Note that indicated airspeed; it is important for a future discussion. After each power reduction, while noting the indicated airspeed, also note the attitude changes in relationship to your cowling and the horizon and the indication on your attitude indicator. Lock these indications in your mind’s eye. Practice this exercises until you know at any given power setting, what the resulting airspeed will be.

Note the weight of your aircraft, the temperature, and altitude you were flying at on the day you practice this exercise.

NOTE! You must let the airplane stabilize between each power change. Realize that you are in, for purposes of this example, a mass weighing in at 2000 pounds. That’s one ton moving through the air at 100 miles an hour more or less. How much kinetic energy are you producing? It takes a time to STABILIZE. (Energy management will be the subject of a future newsletter.)

Practice, practice, practice this exercise and you will be ready for my next subject — the stabilized approach for consistent on-the-spot landings. If you want to develop the skill required to put the airplane down exactly on the “spot” you must understand the “stabilized approach” and energy management.

Fly Safe.