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Training Tip: Five features of flawless fliersTraining Tip: Five features of flawless fliers

Flying great maneuvers isn’t the same as being a great pilot. The rest of what it takes can be summarized in these five flawless features of fantastic fliers.

There are many aspects to being a great pilot. Here are a few features to fly by to elevate your technique. Photo by Mike Fizer.
  • Fly the airplane. Everyone who flies has bumped up against this bromide, but what does it really mean? It’s about mental discipline, not stick-and-rudder technique. Whether the engine has just quit or the designated pilot examiner sitting next to you has just done something weird—probably to test your reaction—allow nothing to shake your focus away from controlling your aircraft as you dispose of or dismiss the distraction.
  • Lower the nose. In a stall, intentional or otherwise, this response should be natural and automatic. Follow up with other measures such as adding power—but reducing the wing’s angle of attack is what brings about the stall recovery, so lower the nose at the first sign of decayed control effectiveness.
  • Let go. In normal straight-and-level flying (without an autopilot) you shouldn’t find yourself making constant control inputs or fiddling with the trim. If you’re locked in a continual cycle of power, pitch, and trim changes just to maintain heading and altitude, my guess is that you are overreacting to minor disturbances rather than letting the aircraft’s inherent stability restore undisturbed flight. This fault and its close relative, overcontrolling, are common habits new pilots must break.
  • Clear the area. When I was giving flight reviews and rental checkouts regularly, I always looked out for whether the pilot flying looked out. Not just before starting a ground-reference maneuver, steep turn, or a stall entry; there’s traffic out there the rest of the time too. Nothing was more disheartening than asking a pilot to perform a steep turn and seeing the pilot roll beautifully into a left turn with nary a glance to the left. Sadly, I’d say that happened more than half the time, and I’d suspect those statistics have not changed much. So clear the area, for those pilots and everyone else.
  • “Believe your instruments.” I placed this perennial platitude between quotation marks to remind you to say it aloud to yourself frequently when flying by reference to instruments. I’ll spare you a long explanation and simply say that believing your instruments—whether you are flying in instrument meteorological conditions as a new instrument pilot or after blundering into clouds by accident as one who has no business being there—will save your life, and disbelieving them won’t.
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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