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Training Tip: Let that be a lessonTraining Tip: Let that be a lesson

Do you warm up before beginning your flight lesson?

Make good use of your practice-area transition time. Photo by Chris Rose.

I don’t mean your engine. Nor do I recommend that you stand on the ramp stretching your quads or playing catch with your instructor before heading out to fly.

The question posed above is about engaging in a short stick-and-rudder warmup session before you begin flying maneuvers.

Adding a warmup to your routine can put you in the sweet spot for practicing steep turns, S-turns, stalls, and other tasks.

For many student pilots, the time to warm up is during the short flight hop between the airport and a practice area, adding value to flight time usually spent simply going and coming back.

What exercises help a pilot warm up?

An old standard is the basic coordination exercise: Fix your trainer’s nose firmly to a distant reference point, then keep it there with rudder pressure as you gently roll the airplane left and right. The rudder inputs offset yaw induced by the aileron inputs. Demonstrate this with and without rudder, noting (and feeling) the drastic difference.

A minute or two of coordination practice should suffice, and once it clicks in your mind that aileron and rudder are used in conjunction to produce “coordinated flight,” the effect on the smoothness of your flying will be magical.

What airspeed and altitude do you routinely use for the short transition to the practice area?

You should have ready answers to that question, but let’s shake things up a bit. Next flight, use a different airspeedpreferably a slower one that’s a bit more demanding to maintain than basic cruise, for which most airplanes are designed to fly with minimal effort.

Pick a different altitude, too, or better yet, change altitudes, and maintain the selected airspeed while you do it. Performing some shallow turns during your climb or descent to the target altitude can serve as a clearing maneuver while bringing the benefits of the coordination exercise into play.

On dual flights, add fun and challenge to the practice-area-transition flight by performing the warmups during simulated-instrument flight, notching up some required instrument time.

Yes, that includes while doing the coordination exercise—you think instrument pilots don’t fly coordinated?

Getting more out of your flight time without flying more is a great way to extract extra performance from your flight training budget.

Have you developed your own flight-warmup techniques? Share them at

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, Student, Technique
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