Most flight schools seem to start their trainees off real slow, by having the student go through things like climbs, descents, shallow turns, straight and level flight, etc. before getting into things like slow flight, stalls and steep turns. However, the folks at DuBois Aviation seem to take a contrarian view preferring, instead, to have the student start with these difficult manoeuvres so that the student has more time to work on it. Also, as my instructor mentioned, an understanding of the power-flight attitude couple and its impact on flight is essential to an understanding of landing. And we all know that we do want to land at some point of time!

Let us get into each of these manoeuvres in detail now.

Slow Flight

The whole idea of training someone in slow flight is to help them develop a feel for the aircraft’s controls at very slow airspeeds, such as those during a landing. For the purposes of training, this manoeuvre is conducted at a speed just over the stall speed of the aircraft. Here’s roughly how it’s done:

  • First do a clearing turn (a combination of two 90 degree turns, one in each direction, or a 180 degree turn, to ensure that there is no traffic around you while you attempt this manoeuvre.
  • Next start reducing the aircraft’s speed by reducing the throttle. Hold the altitude steady by increasing the aircraft’s pitch attitude.
  • When the airspeed falls below the maximum flap extension speed, start extending the flaps, in increments until you have extended full flaps.
  • Once the aircraft is stabilised, perform climbs, descents and shallow turns. Each of these manoeuvres requires a coordinated increase of power and aircraft pitch to hold the airspeed constant.

Obviously, the one thing not mentioned above is that you trim the aircraft after every change.

So, how did I do on this aspect of my training? As you probably guessed, not too good on my first 2 days. However, towards the end of day 3, my instructor said I was getting the hang of it, and that I was able to mentally correlate the variables (pitch and power) correctly.

Steep Turns

Steep turns are manoeuvres that are conducted by rolling the aircraft into a bank angle of 45 degrees (or within 5 degrees of that angle). When the aircraft is in a steep turn, the load factor on the aircraft increases greatly, subjecting the aircraft and its occupants to about 2G. Also, it requires excellent coordination between aileron, elevator and throttle to keep the aircraft at the same altitude and maintain the same bank angle while spinning around in a tight circle.

During your check ride, you are expected to roll into a 45 degree bank and hold the aircraft to within 5 degrees of that bank, while maintaining altitude to within 100 feet of the entry altitude and roll out at a heading that is within 10 degrees of the entry heading. It is tough, and I obviously need significantly more practice to get this manoeuvre correct. However, as my instructor points out, right now I have a grand total of 3.3 hours of total flight time in my log book. It’s not a lot!

During my next post, I’ll talk more about stalls and other manoeuvres.