A Safe Pilot is Always Learning

Enjoy the view…and coordinate!

Two issues I see fairly consistently are improper rudder use resulting in slipping climbs and skidding turns. Here are the issues and how to fix ’em!

Slipping climbs:

Make sure you aren’t fixated looking over the nose during climbs. This should be just one place you look during all phases of flight. Along with over the nose, you should be looking at 10:00 and 2:00 (at the horizon where the glare shield dips), under each wing and (10% of the time at the very most!) at the engine and flight instruments. If pilots aren’t using a good scan pattern, they won’t recognize: 1. the nose rolling and yawing to the left due to inadequate right rudder or 2. the fact they are correcting a rudder problem with aileron by holding the right wing slightly down during climbs.

Both of these problems will be amplified during power-on stall practice and climbs at Vx. When is the last time you practiced these?! Grab an instructor and try this in the airplane or Redbird: ‘Fail’ or cover the flight instruments for both of these maneuvers and make sure you are able to use outside references and all your senses to keep the wings level and nose straight.

Early in your training, or if it’s been a while, have your instructor demonstrate a climb using no rudder to show you the power of the left turning tendencies. Have them increase the angle of attack while doing this to show how the tendencies worsen.

Also, have them demonstrate a slipping climb so they know how to recognize this. If your instructor guides you and points out very specifically the slipping climb, you will be able to both see and feel when you are doing this improperly. Darth Vader said it best, “Search your feelings, Luke…you know them to be true…”

Skidding turns:

Initially when learning the art of coordination, a little skidding can be a good thing – it shows you are using proper rudder direction and understand coordination. You just need to work on the ‘how much pressure’ part. Slipping is just the opposite as it indicates you aren’t using the rudder at all or aren’t using it enough. In turns, many students and pilots fail to neutralize the rudder after establishing the bank. Because of how clear it is visually if ailerons aren’t neutralized (the aircraft will continue rolling!), students and pilots are usually good at neutralizing the ailerons, but fail to consistently neutralize the rudder. This results in a skidding turn, which can be a dangerous thing, especially when operating in the traffic pattern. Loaded with too much back pressure, a skidding turn can very quickly become a spin.

I personally teach students and pilots to lead with rudder prior to doing anything with the control wheel. In terms of bank, I teach them to act like there is a metal rod between the rudder pedal and the corresponding side of the control wheel. Right rudder pressure ‘pulls’ the control wheel to the right. Left rudder pressure ‘pulls’ the control wheel to the left. Also, make sure you are aware of the control wheel position. The glare shield / cowling should be banked in the same direction the control wheel is being held. Anything else is a dangerous cross-controlled, skidded state. Very dangerous, yet very easy to identify and prevent. The exception to this is during steep turns when slight opposite aileron and rudder controls may be necessary due to the overbanking tendency. Emphasis is on slight! Also, this should still be a coordinated turn. You should be able to see this using only outside references and should be able to feel it in your posteriors (butts!).

One more thing…make sure you are keeping a consistent seat position and are not ‘leaning’ away from turns to stay upright in relation to the ground. This will throw off your interpretation of outside references and will constantly change your site picture, making it both challenging and uncomfortable.

The only time an airplane should be slipping is when doing so deliberately during a forward slip or crosswind landing. The only time an airplane should be skidding is during a taxi turn on the ground. Period!

Two of the best resources for understanding turns and rudder use are “Stick and Rudder” by Wolfgang Langewiesche and “The Airplane Flying Handbook” by the FAA.

As with everything, deliberate and proper practice makes perfect!

Learning proper rudder using outside references early in training and practicing it throughout your flying career is one of a pilot’s most important responsibilities.

Remember, the best way to control the airplane is to look outside, look all around…and enjoy the view! After all, isn’t that why we fly?!

Be safe, have fun and keep learning!

Matt D’Angelo

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