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Training and Safety Tip: Understanding the why

Learning to fly is thoroughly enjoyable, even exhilarating. But at times, learning to perform the various tasks necessary to earn a pilot certificate can feel overwhelming.

Photo by Mike Fizer.

Often the frustration we feel with new and challenging tasks can be alleviated if we understand why we have been asked to learn and demonstrate that particular task. Knowing why our CFI, the designated examiner, and the FAA ask us to perform these feats can put the maneuver into context and provide greater clarity, allowing us to perform more effectively.

For example, ground reference maneuvers—turns around a point, S turns across a road, and the classic rectangular pattern—develop our ability to fly a specific track across the ground while compensating for the wind. We must acquire this skill to fly an established traffic pattern while maintaining a specific ground track. Understanding and mastering these three maneuvers allows us to perfect our ability to fly a stable approach and line up on the runway no matter how strong the wind is or from which direction it blows.

Slow flight helps us develop the skills necessary to operate on the back side of the power curve. In normal cruise flight, we set the power to achieve a given airspeed and pitch to maintain altitude. Yet, the opposite is true at a high power setting and high pitch attitude: In this situation, changes in power lead to changes in altitude, and we change pitch to adjust our airspeed to the specific value we seek.

Continue pitching up at a slow airspeed with a high power setting, and the aircraft will stall. The goal of performing a stall is to show we can control the airplane through the stall and recover smoothly without losing excessive altitude. We keep the ailerons centered while using the rudder judiciously to maintain straight flight through the stall; this prevents us from inadvertently spinning the aircraft. (To spin the aircraft, it is necessary to stall the wing and induce a yawing motion.) Now, all we have to demonstrate is an orderly stall recovery: Reduce the angle of attack, break the stall, bring the aircraft back to level flight, add power, and recover any lost altitude.

Before each new maneuver, ask your CFI what the maneuver is and why you are asked to learn it. This clarification can make a huge difference in your progress toward your pilot certificate. You might even find you enjoy the process of learning new tasks more when you know why your CFI is teaching them to you.

Jamie Beckett

AOPA You Can Fly ambassador, Eastern United States
Jamie Beckett is the AOPA You Can Fly ambassador for the Eastern United States. A dedicated aviation advocate, he can be reached at [email protected]
Topics: Training and Safety, Student, Flight School
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