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Custom content for the June 7, 2013, issue of 'AOPA ePilot' newsletterCustom content for the June 7, 2013, issue of 'AOPA ePilot' newsletter

training tips

'Constant airspeed' maneuvers

Training TipIt's bad business when a VFR pilot pushes deteriorating weather and winds up flying in instrument meteorological conditions, struggling to maintain control. Add to that the demands of complying with air traffic control's escape instructions, and the situation is dicey indeed.


How dicey?


"In 2010, there were 29 VFR into IMC accidents involving general aviation aircraft, and 21 of those—or 72 percent—were fatal. This continues to be an area of high lethality, and it involves pilots of all certificate and experience levels," says this Air Safety Institute article.


Your private pilot training must include a minimum requirement of three hours of flight training in control and maneuvering solely by reference to instruments. Later, your skills and knowledge will be examined through six practical-test tasks.


So, here is a question: When is a noninstrument-rated pilot most at risk during instrument flight?


During turning flight, explains Chapter 16 of the Airplane Flying Handbook. The sensations of a turn may be disorienting; also, a pilot's normal tendency is to overcontrol. For that reason, VFR pilots learning emergency instrument-flying skills are taught to avoid combined maneuvers—that is, don't combine climbs or descents with turns.


"Combining maneuvers will only compound the problems encountered in individual maneuvers and increase the risk of control loss. Remember that the objective is to maintain airplane control by deviating as little as possible from straight-and-level flight attitude and thereby maintaining as much of the airplane's natural equilibrium as possible," the chapter says.


The simplicity-equals-safety approach is reflected further in two practical test standards tasks that call for climbs or descents on instruments to be made at a "constant airspeed."


For example with the aircraft trimmed for level flight, start the descent by reducing power. "Following a power reduction, however slight, there will be an almost imperceptible decrease in airspeed. However, even a slight change in speed results in less down load on the tail, whereupon the designed nose heaviness of the airplane causes it to pitch down just enough to maintain the airspeed for which it was trimmed. The airplane will then descend at a rate directly proportionate to the amount of thrust that has been removed."


As with many piloting techniques, small adjustments produce needed results. In this case, that result is escape from an all-too-persistent hazard.

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final exam

Question: I am a student pilot and have a medical certificate that is also a student pilot certificate. I got a new medical certificate a few days before the original expired on May 31, but my aviation medical examiner forgot to also include a student pilot certificate. My checkride is in a few days. What should I do?


Answer: FAR 61.103(j) requires private pilot applicants to hold a valid U.S. student pilot certificate. Once the old medical expires, so does the student pilot certificate, unfortunately. An FAA designated pilot examiner (DPE) or flight standards district office (FSDO) can provide a new student pilot certificate in this case. So, you will need to have the DPE issue you a student pilot certificate before conducting the checkride to satisfy the regulation.


Got a question for our technical services staff? Email [email protected] or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don't forget the online archive of "Final Exam" questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.

Topics: AOPA, Aviation Industry, FAA Information and Services

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