Training Tip: The tell-all technique

July 22, 2013

You have barely leveled off at the assigned altitude and heading for your checkride, and already the designated examiner has a fair idea of what to expect from the rest of your performance.

How is that possible after such a brief time sharing your cockpit?

It’s tied directly to the basic aspects of your earliest training. Specifically, do you move the controls in a coordinated fashion, inducing aircraft motion around one or more axes while controlling for adverse motion in another? Or do you appear unaware of the aircraft’s responses to your control pressures, slipping and skidding through checkride tasks?

An operation as simple as turning to an assigned heading can tell all.

Suppose you have been asked to perform a right turn from north to east. If you bank the aircraft to the right without applying right rudder, what happens? Initially, the nose will yaw left. That’s a response to the lift and drag added to the left wing by downward deflection of its aileron

Even if the examiner appears busy scribbling on a clipboard, he or she will sense the “uncoordinated” turn as a sideways nudge in the seat—an unpleasant sensation, especially if repeated multiple times during a flight.

That sickly sensation becomes downright uncomfortable in slow flight, when the adverse-yaw effect of even small aileron deflections intensifies. There’s a safety issue here: If left uncorrected, adverse yaw is what turns stalls into spins.

Whether in normal or slow flight, the same uncoordinated use of the controls that spoils a turn entry is likely to ruin the rollout as well. As you start rolling out of that right turn, simultaneously add a touch of left rudder. If the nose does not slew farther right as you begin the rollout, and if you feel no sideways motion in your seat, you have achieved coordination.

Here’s a good warm-up exercise for any training flight: After level-off, perform several gentle banks left, right, left, right. Focus on using rudder to keep the nose pinned to a prominent visual reference.

Wait—doesn’t the little ball in the inclinometer tell you if your flying is coordinated?

It does provide a synthetic indication of coordinated flight. But if your turns feel smooth, and if the aircraft’s nose obediently moves only in the desired direction, the ball only confirms what you (and the examiner) already know.