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Old 02-24-2009, 11:59 AM   #1  
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Default Fundamental Aircraft Handling Question

Fundamental Aircraft Handling Question

As I study my Jeppesen, King Schools and Sporty's DVD for the private and instrument and read the various books on primary flight training, something stood out as being rather odd.

The DVD's say nothing about "how" to fundamentally handle your aircraft and almost all of the books that I have on the subject of primary training and primary flying, talk about "how" you get the aircraft into a particular "configuration" before you attempt certain kinds of flight maneuvers, or while engaged in the six (6) basic phases of flight: Take/Off, Climb, Cruise, Descent, Approach and Landing.

I initially thought that this was a rather bizarre omision on the part of the DVD makers, but the more I read different aviation authors, the more I realize how Instructors beliefs and attitudes vary on the subject.

So, my question is this (for CFIs):

After I go through the process of interviewing and selecting the Instructor who will guide me through my Private Pilot License, do you think it is a good idea to get the Pitch/Power/Trim settings for the aircraft that I will be training with, so that when my Instructor asks me to do something with the aircraft, I'm not wasting valuable time mentally hunting for the correct Pitch/Power/Trim setting that will enable me to fly the aircraft the way my Instructors wants me to, during the Take-Off, Climb, Cruise, Descent, Approach and Landing phases of flight [the basic six]?

Before you answer that question, please understand that I am able to visualize that fact that there might not be a one size fits all silver bullet setting that solves all of my problems. That's not what I'm talking about. What I'm trying to understand is whether or not there is a fairly reasonable range of Pitch/Power/Trim settings that a pilot can expect to be able to rely upon, to get the aircraft to behave a certain way under most conditions.

My theory is that as a "student pilot," if I have these settings right up front at the outset of my initial flight training phase, that I will be able to focus more on the more subtle, complex and difficult tasks and challenges that face all students who are just learning to fly.

Example

Instructor tells me to:

"...Using the fewest number of degrees, turn to a heading of 035, THEN descend down to 3,500 ft at 100 fpm and no greater than 110 kts, THEN fly straight and level at 035 degrees at no more than 95 kts. Let me know when you think you are done with this task." [or, words to this effect]

Aircraft handling skill is required throughout that entire maneuver from start to finish. If I stumble in my mind at any point in handling the aircraft, then I will not get the aircraft to perform this maneuver. For the skill pilot with plenty of experience in handling their aircraft, this would most likely seem like a very simple task.

Realizing that the Instructor would have already reviewed how to do this with his new student, the student might still be trying to process the request in their brain in real-time, given the shear lack of flying time and experience.

I'm trying to find effective ways in which to increase my learning while at the same time, free my brain to focus on the task and not so much on the physical skills required to accomplish the task.

If that same student already knew the Pitch/Power/Trim settings for the particular aircraft that he/she is training with and knew in what order to execute control inputs for these same settings, would that student be able to handle the above task with more confidence, fluidity and better physical control of the aircraft? If not, why not?

Your help is greatly appreciated on this, thanks.
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Old 02-24-2009, 01:56 PM   #2  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RVSM Certified View Post
... do you think it is a good idea to get the Pitch/Power/Trim settings for the aircraft that I will be training with, so that when my Instructor asks me to do something with the aircraft, I'm not wasting valuable time mentally hunting for the correct Pitch/Power/Trim setting that will enable me to fly the aircraft the way my Instructors wants me to, during the Take-Off, Climb, Cruise, Descent, Approach and Landing phases of flight [the basic six]?
No, because it varies with each aircraft even within a model type. However there is one nice power management technique you can use in every trainer:

100 rpm or 1" MP = 5 KIAS or 100 fpm

And or subtract 100 RPM and stay level, and the airplane will speed up or slow 5 knots. Add or subtract 100 RPM and let the nose fall or rise, and the airplane will do so at a rate of about 100 fpm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by RVSM Certified View Post
... if that same student already knew the Pitch/Power/Trim settings for the particular aircraft that he/she is training with, and knew in what order to execute control inputs for these same settings, would that student be able to handle the above task with more confidence, fluidity and better physical control of the aircraft? If not, why not?
Yes they would. But you need to do this as a combination of knowledge and motor skill, not just one without the other. I wouldn't bother memorizing any numbers until you have flown your trainer airplane with your instructor. Then you can take note of what does what in that particular airplane. Knowledge of power pitch trim settings without any sense of how the aircraft will respond will produce mechanical flying, and not knowing any settings (by the number) will make you a very rough aviator when you get back in the plane after being out of it for a while. You need both types of knowledge.
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Old 02-24-2009, 02:29 PM   #3  
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While there may be a normal setting that works most often, it is still the responsibility of the Pilot in Command to control the aircraft. It was always my view that if you are relying on rote procedures and settings, then you are not in control. You are pushing buttons and hoping for the best.

As a student pilot, make it your goal to learn the normal operation of your aircraft, but always be prepared for abnormal things. The motor skills to get an airplane off the ground can be taught on the first lesson, but knowing what to do in anything but ideal conditions is a matter of learning and experience.

Your instructor may give you some normal numbers to look for when preparing for a maneuver. If not, take note of the things that generally work. But remember to use those settings as a starting point. You will have to adjust them every flight, and sometimes every maneuver based on the day's conditions. If flying were a simple matter of plugging the right numbers into an equation, pilots would have been replaced by robots a long time ago.
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Old 02-24-2009, 02:52 PM   #4  
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What your talking about is a Control-Performance type of flying. Basically it means the "x" input (pitch, power, bank), produces "y" output (500ft/min climb, 100kts, etc.). Traditionally, this is used for instrument training because it allows you to quickly jump into an aircraft that your not familiar with and fly in precisely. It works great.... if you fly the same airplane all the time. The down side is that if you decide to fly a different aircraft, the control-performance from one airplane doesn't transfer to another.

My suggestion to you is to not concentrate on knowing this "data" prior to starting training, it won't do you any good. You need to build your flying skills by learning the airplane and getting use to how it flies. In the long run it will make you a better, more prudent pilot. If you develop this skill it will transfer to ANY airplane you fly in the future.


Personally, I don't think there is any reason you should be worried about an instructor giving you an example like yours above. It is way to involved for ppl training and actually is more like instrument training. Find an instructor that you will enjoy flying with (and make it fun) and someone that you would learn well from.

Hope this helps!

-Matt
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Old 02-24-2009, 03:52 PM   #5  
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Quote:
I'm trying to find effective ways in which to increase my learning while at the same time, free my brain to focus on the task and not so much on the physical skills required to accomplish the task.
This part of your question would be called "chair flying"
I actually think you have it backwards.
In my opinion - you should prepare for the task and pay MORE attention to the physical skills required to fly. You will only experience those while actually airborne.
Preparing for the tasks can be done sitting in the chair or in a cockpit.
Go through every procedure of every maneuver that you are going to perform in your mind before the flight (maybe the night before). Know the PROCEDURES COLD for each maneuver so that you don't have to use much brain power on each of the steps and can concentrate on the FEEL of the aircraft.

An extreme example of "chair flying" would be the brief that the precision aerobatic teams do before their performances. For instance - the whole Blue Angels team sits around a table and "chair flies" the entire performance as part of the brief. They are working the stick and throttle - making the radio calls and looking around from side to side at other members of the flight all in their heads - visualizing every detail. I have to imagine that if it works for them that it would work for a PPL.

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Old 02-24-2009, 06:11 PM   #6  
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USMCFLYR hit it on the head. I think you are going about it a little backwards.
Some of the things you are talking about would apply more to instrument flight.
Chair flying the procedures is great. I'm all about FEELING the aircraft for private pilots and LOOKING OUTSIDE!!!
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Old 02-24-2009, 09:28 PM   #7  
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...I think you are going about it a little backwards.

...Some of the things you are talking about would apply more to instrument flight.
I got the ideas from several books, one of my favorite is called: The Complete Guide to Flight Instruction, by Gregory M. Penglis.

Here are the excerpts that I'm basing my questions on in this thread - Page 63/64:

"The FAA wants you to learn fly by the integrated instruction method. That lofty but nebulous term simply means flying by both an instrument reference and a visual reference. Everything works backwards in flight training, so you will concentrate on those instruments because you assume real pilots always rely on their instruments. Since you have not had the instrument training of real pilots, you have no idea how to take what you see and put it in a usable picture. You also don't develop the habit of constantly looking out the window for other airplanes.

Each of those instruments you value so highly has its own particular delays and errors, of which you have no idea. This will result in you being told you are "chasing the needles," another nebulous term which has no meaning to you [as as student pilot], even though you know that you are doing something wrong.

Outside the window is the best reference ever created to observe what the airplane is doing - the horizon. ...It requires no interpretation.

There you are, being told [by your instructor] to climb, when you don't remember where "here" is, while you stare at the instruments you don't yet know how to read. That is why you have trouble in your early hours.
"


Penglis, goes on to say:

"...There is of course, a cure. Standardize the training. You will cut your training time in half if you can get your instructor to write down specific pitch and power settings for every configuration in normal flight. Memorize them.

For each particular pitch and power setting, you will get the same airspeed and rate of climb or descent. You can climb, descend, and fly straight and level, using a particular power setting and a visual reference where the nose appears relative to the horizon,
and do it the same way every time without ever thinking about it.
When you don't have to think about how to do it, you can learn to make decisions when to do it.

...Your instructor or aircraft manual may require some variation. However, the point is to use the same settings for each particular configuration every time you do it."


Penglis then goes into talking about what those specific configurations are for a C-172. Penglis, has been a flight instructor since the early 80's. Copyright, 1994 [The Complete Guide to Flight Instruction].

So, these are not my ideas. I'm reading what other instructor pilot authors have written and then doing my own little investigation by asking other CFIs what their take on the matter might be.
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Old 02-24-2009, 10:02 PM   #8  
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RVSM -

All that book learning is awesome. Now you'll have to translate into the **real** world.

I would totally agree with the looking outside part. I still sturggle with my students to do the same thing. They get so engrossed looking inside at all the information flooding the cockpit or looking at the radar or FLIR that I have had them fly right over (and past) the target without realizing it!

As far as particular pitch and power settings - I guess that would work. I know that we use something similar to that. Set a certain RPM after takeoff on climbout, set a certain pitch attitude and that will give you an approximate climb airspeed that we are targeting. Now that works for a particular configuration under certain conditions and they are only starting points. Change the configuration and weight (loaded with extra fuel tanks or bombs), environmental conditions (early morning or heat of the day in the middle of summer), engine performance of a particular plane (did you get the race horse or the dog today) and everything changes.

Flying is a FLUID thing. Nothing works all the time and everything changes. You'll need to have a basis to start from and then be able to adapt to be successful.

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Old 02-24-2009, 10:09 PM   #9  
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Thanks again, USMC - it all makes sense.

And, BTW - I'll take the race horse a light load and cool air, please!
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Old 02-25-2009, 01:25 AM   #10  
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The value of chair-flying is real. I never heard of it prior to UPT. Take the pitch/power thing another step--get the power settings for your aircraft, then purchase a cockpit/instrument panel poster for your make/model. Then write down your sortie profile (takeoff, slow flight, ground ref maneuvers, etc.) Then "fly" the thing step-by-step in your mind from "before starting engines" to "after landing" with direct reference to your poster and your checklist. "Rote" may be the lowest level of learning, but it's a valuable thing. Is your actual flight gonna go just like your chair flight? No, but situational awareness can be improved by using less brain cells figuring "where" and "when" to look in the cockpit.
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