Safety Publications/Articles

Little things

Little things count a lot. I'm speaking of the little actions that flight instructors may introduce to their students, only to leave them unsaid (and unseen) ever again. It's reasonable to assume that if a pilot doesn't learn to do the little things associated with flying an airplane, he or she probably won't pay much attention to the big things, either.

For instance, when taxiing a taildragger, some students treat joysticks like tea leaves and let them fall where they may. Instead, the stick should be held back at all times unless wind compensation dictates otherwise. Sloppy stick placement might be considered a small thing, but it reveals a general sloppiness of behavior that surely can't aid a pilot in controlling an airplane.

What about pilots who insist on cleaning up the airplane just after touchdown and during the landing roll? What problems can this cause in a Cessna 172? Probably not many, since the pilot isn't likely to accidentally retract the gear on this airplane, right? But teaching and asking for the correct behavior now makes for a pilot who's much less likely to accidentally retract the gear if and when he flies a complex airplane.

What about taxiing while simultaneously, but unconsciously, applying toe brakes? Some pilots were never taught that the default state for their heels is on the floor, not above it. As a result, some pilots are frequently applying some degree of brake pressure even when they think they're not. That's sloppy flying.

If you want your students to do the big things properly, start by teaching them to do the small things regularly. It's the way we teach our students that all thingsbig and smallare important when flying an airplane.

By Rod Machado

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