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Training Tip: Cross-check and interpretationTraining Tip: Cross-check and interpretation

Students learn basic instrument flying skills while they work on their private pilot certificate.

Learning to trust the flight instruments and disregard physical sensations is essential for maintaining control of an aircraft that has entered instrument meteorological conditions, as discussed in the May 18 "Training Tip." Having learned that concept through demonstration and practice, it is time for a student pilot to move on to performing the basic flight maneuvers under simulated instrument conditions with your flight instructor introducing the tasks—as appropriate for the kind of instruments installed in your trainer—while also watching for any conflicting traffic.

Your instructor is not exaggerating by presenting this material to you with strong emphasis on its critical nature: "Accident statistics show that the pilot who has not been trained in attitude instrument flying, or one whose instrument skills have eroded, will lose control of the airplane in about 10 minutes once forced to rely solely on instrument references," explains the Airplane Flying Handbook in Chapter 16, "Emergency Procedures."

The basic tasks—straight-and-level flight, climbs, descents, and turns—are the same ones that you learned in your earliest flight lessons as "the four fundamentals" of controlling an aircraft.

The difference now is that you will not be able to look outside and use the natural horizon—and as you establish and maintain each flight attitude using your instruments, you will get real practice putting your newly learned skill of deciding any conflicts between the instrument indications and sensory inputs in favor of the instruments.

You will learn that an instrument that provides a direct indication of one attitude may also provide an indirect indication of another, making it useful for cross-checks. When establishing level flight, for instance (in an aircraft with analog instruments) the pilot sets the pitch attitude directly from the attitude indicator. The altimeter gives the pilot an indirect indication of pitch, at a constant power setting, by indicating any deviation from level flight. The vertical speed indicator serves a similar function, and displays the rate of vertical movement. The airspeed indicator also provides an indirect pitch indication: airspeed should remain constant, given constant power, for an aircraft in level flight.

Smoothly controlling the aircraft’s attitude in this manner satisfies an objective of Task A, Area of Operation IX of the Private Pilot Practical Test Standards calling for the pilot to maintain straight-and-level flight by reference to instruments "using the proper instrument cross-check and interpretation, and coordinated control application."

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.
Topics: Flight Training, Pilot Training and Certification

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