There has been some talk lately across the interwebs about pilot skills degrading. This isn’t anything new, the topic tends to resurface in regular intervals. An article this month on LinkedIn reported that 88% of pilots asked said pilots are losing their basic flying skills as airplanes are becoming more automated. I’m sure those same people would report themselves to be the exception, but I digress.
That got me thinking, what exactly are “basic flying skills” or how do we define “stick and rudder skills?” I often fly with owners that tell me they hand fly to altitude before engaging the autopilot to “stay sharp.” Great intention, no question there, but does it address the skill set required to avoid the loss of control trap?
I complied a handful of accident videos that all fit what seems to be the most common (especially amongst single engine airplanes) LOC accident, the dreaded stall/spin. I share my thoughts and observations in the video below.
So does hand flying to altitude address the issues? If you haven’t watched the video yet consider this your spoiler alert. If your idea of hand flying to altitude involves aggressive aileron use or rapid power changes, then maybe. Otherwise you’re preparing for a marathon by running the garbage to the curb once a week.
I’ll also go on record saying I think pilot skills will continue to decline as technology improves, and that’s not a bad thing! A yaw damper and automatic autopilot engagement modes are going to save lives. Pilot navigation skills have gone down the tubes since gps, yet how often do people get lost anymore? I embrace the technology that will make me and what I teach obsolete!
A very nice video and you summarized in 7 minutes the aerodynamics of the the aircraft. But most pilots do not truly understand those laws of physics and my observation is that the problem of loss of control falls more into the fact that many pilots fly with multiple misconceptions about how to properly control an airplane.
It all start with that fact that we turn a car by moving the steering wheel. We drive more than we fly so the muscle memory of a pilot wants to take driving skills into the cockpit and apply them the same way. That does not work at all. In car, to use airplane language, we only control yaw which is the left or right movement of the front of the car. We do that with the wheel in a car. But in an airplane that is a 100% function of the rudder. Until a pilot gets that, nothing else works.
There is no roll in driving a car yet that is the only thing the ailerons do in a plane. Yet pilots use the ailerons often to “turn” or change the direction of the nose when, in fact, that maneuver is controlled by the rudder. In summary lack of understanding of the difference between a car and a plane is one of the biggest issues I see in too many pilots.
In straight and level flight, I see way too many pilots wanting to make small heading changes with the ailerons. It is does not work and results in constant over controlling and a very uncomfortable ride fro passengers. The rudder is too often forgotten!
Loss of control is really another name for stall or stall/spin. That results from inadequate lift. Here again, the pilots forget the aerodynamics. They are taught on lesson 1 that pulling back the yoke makes the plane go up. That is only true if you have enough excess energy in that aircraft to be able to climb. We need to teach that you only climb if you have enough power to do so. In slow flight, pulling back the yoke merely makes you go slower and the AOA approaches critical the more you try to gain altitude. Easy to see how you can stall thinking you always go up when you pull back!
Lastly, P factor is ignored by a majority of pilots. I simple teach that anytime the nose is raised, whether it be in a climb, in slow flight, in a flare or any other nose up attitude; you need right rudder. It is simple a question of how much. It is forgotten the most in slow flight and in the flare which explains why so planes land on the left side of the runway and why so many stalls end up spinning left rather than right.
It all boils down to understanding the proper use of the controls. A plane is not a car. Even if you do not understand fully the aerodynamics; if you learn to understand proper control input much of this terrible issue can be corrected.
A normally loaded and properly balanced airplane never stalls on its own. Pilot back pressure on the yoke is what creates all of them. You are not going to go up or stabilize a descent if you are at critical AOA. With an engine out, pulling up only makes you go slower. You cannot do that yet that is exactly how engine out stalls happen! Often it is better NOT to pull early or often!!!
Nice video, I liked it.
Excellent video and explanation, Dennis. Congratulations.
QUOTE FROM ONE OF MY VERY EARLY (1950'S) FLIGHT INSTRUCTORS:
STICK AND RUDDER....STICK AND RUDDER....DON'T USE ONE WITHOUT THE UTTER !!!
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