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Training Tip: Drop your feetTraining Tip: Drop your feet

I heard a most mournful aviation story the other day, a real tearjerker.

Riding the brakes heats up wheels and damages tires. Photo by Mike Fizer.

It happened while I was conducting a phone interview, so all I could do was maintain my composure as the fellow I was interviewing told his tale of trauma and torment.

The hero of the story, he said, had appeared at the airport in the prime, full of life, and ready to roll. Tragically, this refreshing buoyancy was met with scorn and neglect. So harshly was our hero treated that any expectations of a productive life were quickly shattered, leaving our hero deflated and unable to function.

The teller of this sad, sad story was an aviation mechanic, and the victim was a brand-new aircraft tire, done to death (as Shakespeare might write) in short order by the unrelenting abuse.

We can take a break now, if you need to gather yourself.

But to continue: Not every airframe-and-powerplant mechanic holds hardware as highly as does the fellow who told his tale of tortured tread. Still, whenever I get a mechanic on the line, I like to inquire after any advice he or she may wish to offer pilots, based on what folks are seeing in the shop.

Typical responses run to colorful descriptions of cylinder components stained or distorted by pilots’ failure to lean the fuel-air mixture. Sometimes you’ll get an earful about thermal shock—with some mechanics wondering aloud whether avoiding it is being taught anymore.

But this appeal, from a mechanic who works on a large fleet of general aviation aircraft, stood out: “Tell them to drop their feet.”

I promised I would.

Remember your first flight lesson? The instructor explained that the foot pedals in most airplanes are multipurpose devices. Control the brakes on the upper part of the pedals; when you add power and begin to roll, drop your feet to the floor so your toes rest on the pedal bottoms, maintaining directional control with nosewheel or tailwheel steering, and rudder.

The Law of Primacy aside (it holds that things first learned are best remembered), mechanics still deal with the scuffs, flat spots, and uneven tire-tread wear that suggest pilots are still quite prone to riding around on the brakes (probably with excessive power for taxiing).

So drop your feet and make a mechanic merry. Then, during your next preflight, check to verify that others who fly your trainer are doing the same.

Riding the brakes can heat up your wheels or hinder directional control. Share how you avoid the problem 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
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