Safety Publications/Articles

Micro perceptions

Sometimes, it's the little things that count.

For instance, instructors often cue their students to perceive events on the macro level in the cockpit. A pitch change from level flight to a climb, or applying 20 degrees of bank in a turn, or a significant crab angle for tracking the centerline of a runway are all cockpit events on the macro level. These are events that students come to identify easily, and they're a necessary first level of mastery. To increase a student's proficiency and subtlety in nearly any maneuver, however, he or she must perceive airplane performance on a micro level.

A micro perceptual event might be the slight shift of body weight in the seat when too much or too little rudder is used. It could be the ever-so-slight forward pitch of the nose when an airplane enters ground effect. It could even be the need to increase the crab angle in the flare when landing out of a crabbed condition, and over-extending the flare before touchdown (because ground speed decreases and the previous crab angle is now insufficient for maintaining the desired ground track). These are the little things, the flight insights, that students will miss in the cockpit unless an insightful instructor points them out.

There are many other examples of micro perceptions that an instructor can introduce to the student. The slight shift of the nose ahead of or in the opposite direction of turn as a means of identifying an uncoordinated turn is one example. The signature clunk of an airplane's gear as it locks into place is another.

Training starts on the macro level; proficiency flourishes on the micro plane. Good flight instructors make an effort to help their students grasp events on the micro level of perception. It is, after all, one of the key items separating the master from the beginner in nearly every discipline.

By Rod Machado

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