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Training Tip: Control conundrumsTraining Tip: Control conundrums

You've practiced certain maneuvers to the point of exhaustion, but time after time they come out wrong, and you're not sure why. What’s the next step?

All maneuvers, whether maintaining a given flight attitude or making changes, require small corrections for success. Photo by Mike Fizer.

First review the principle the maneuver is intended to demonstrate. If you grasp the idea behind the maneuver, my guess is that you are overcorrecting.

Over what?

Performing any flight maneuver, whether it requires maintaining a given flight attitude or making changes, involves a series of control inputs, or corrections, to keep things on track.

Your trainer was designed to cooperate with you in that effort when flown within its normal operating envelope. But it takes some student pilots time to trust that idea, and let the aircraft do what it "wants" to do.

Before that insight takes hold, inexperienced pilots tend to overreact to deviations, applying excessive or mistimed pitch, bank, or power inputs.

Don't worry, it’s part of learning. Ever watch an experienced pilot fly a traffic pattern or "hang the airplane from the propeller" in a splendid demonstration of slow flight? There’s not much to see because the pilot doesn’t appear to be doing very much. It’s a series of well-timed and subtly applied control inputs that is getting the job done. Even back in the traffic pattern with a ripping, gusting crosswind blowing, you feel, more than observe, what the pilot is doing to keep the airplane on speed and in position to land.

A flight instructor coaching a student pilot through a maneuver may need to say little more than the repeated reminder, "Small corrections," to achieve success.

How can you learn to trust the aircraft and let it do its work?

Recall from earliest training that when you trimmed successfully for straight-and-level hands-off flight, and the aircraft experienced a sudden displacement, say from turbulence, its inherent stability gradually restored it to its undisturbed condition without the pilot fussing with the controls, or retrimming.

Also, remember that the aircraft will deliver predictable airspeeds in level flight at given power settings, saving you time and effort when changing airspeeds. Establish your climbs and descents at predetermined airspeeds by increasing or reducing power from that baseline power setting.

As for timing your control inputs when flying your maneuver, practice "leading" your rollouts from turns and level-offs from climbs and descents until they come out just right.

Learn how your airplane “thinks,” and you won’t feel the need to second-guess the machine.

Did you have to break the overcorrecting habit when learning your training maneuvers? Share the experience 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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