October 7, 2011
Pick up any trainer’s pilot’s operating handbook. The pre-takeoff checklist is likely to contain a reminder to verify that the fight controls are free and correct.
Don’t just go through the motions—literally—of making sure that elevators and ailerons, when moved with the yoke or stick are unobstructed, and rudder pedals are functional. Without actually looking to make sure that control surfaces move as you intend, free controls may not be correct controls. Misrigged controls may result in an aircraft response opposite to what was intended, a condition that has caused some serious accidents.
Fortunately, awareness of the hazard helps make it easy to catch during preflight inspections and pre-takeoff checks.
One mnemonic device some instructors teach is the “thumb up, aileron up” technique. When you turn the yoke to the left, the thumb on your upper hand points to the up aileron, which is the left aileron. Turn the yoke to the right, and your upper hand’s thumb points to the right, or up, aileron, if control cables are both free and correct.
Another method is to think of a box, as explained in the October 2010 Flight Training’s Tech Tip: “Start either full right or full left with the yoke full forward. Then pull all the way aft, turn the yoke fully in the opposite direction, and then push all the way forward. Of course, glance at the aileron and elevator at each point on the box. You’ve done two things: You’ve made sure the controls are correct, and you’ve ensured they can travel fully in all directions.”
Jammed controls in flight are another hazard to guard against. You may not think of keeping a tidy cockpit as insurance against that risk, but this example of a near mishap shows how an innocent object might find its way into a bad space.
Factory-issued or homemade control locks (a very bad idea) not removed before flight have brought down aircraft—or prevented them from taking off. Some aircraft designs increased this risk, as several accidents involving one model turboprop showed, eventually prompting authorities to issue an airworthiness directive.
Considering the sport pilot route? Flight Training Contributing Editor Rod Machado brings his expertise to the subject in his book, Rod Machado’s Sport Pilot Handbook. If you’ve seen any of Machado’s texts you’ll be familiar with the format: plain-language explanations peppered with easy-to-grasp illustrations and charts. The 582-page book includes information on subjects particularly germane to the sport pilot student, including a discussion of Rotax engines. The book sells for $59.95 or can be purchased in e-book format (for the iPad only) for $44.99. See the website or call 800/437-7080.
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Question: I am a new student pilot, and I’ve just started working on the four fundamentals of flight: climbs, turns, descents, and straight-and-level flight. I noticed the other day when we were practicing turns that the nose of the airplane always seems to want to go in the opposite direction of the turn. Can you explain to me what is going on?
Answer: You have just discovered one of the truisms of flying: You don’t get something for nothing. When turning an airplane to the left, the aileron on the left wing goes up and the aileron on the right wing goes down. The downward-deflected aileron on the right wing produces more lift; however, it also produces more drag. The upward-deflected aileron on the left wing produces less lift and less drag. The increased drag on the right wing has a tendency to pull the airplane’s nose in the direction of the raised wing; which is opposite to the direction desired. This undesirable veering is called adverse yaw. That is one reason why airplanes have rudders—they do a great job of counteracting this unwanted tendency. For more on aerodynamics, take the Air Safety Institute’s interactive course Essential Aerodynamics .
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