Y’know the one part of a flying airplane that consistently causes the most problems affecting proper performance? Give up? It’s the pilot. It’s been proven over and over again that in many instances, letting go of the controls will result, at least momentarily, in a smoother flight.
I’ve often related the time when I asked CFIG Kat Haessler to help me get current in gliders. I was making little corrections like crazy in the old Schweizer 2-33. Kat’s voice came to me from the front seat. “What are ya doing, churning butter?” I was working too hard and the old glider wasn’t even capable of answering the helm with all the little needless corrections I was giving it. It would do better if I did less.
I will never forget one scene of a famous old movie. In “My Friend Flicka”, Preston Foster, who plays the dad to Roddy McDowell’s character, tells the kid, “if you’re ever in trouble, just give Flicka her head and she’ll bring you home”. Later the kid is in a fix and we hear Preston Foster’s line supposedly echoing in his head. He gives Flicka her head and, guess what? She brings him home safely.
Wolfgang Langewiesche, in his must-read treatise, “Stick and Rudder”, compares the airplane to the horse and describes various “gaits” that an airplane assumes, just like a horse. Those who have taken instruction from me, know that I closely adhere to Wolfgang’s use of “gaits”.
Maybe that’s why I feel that Preston Foster’s advice to Roddy McDowell should be heeded by every airplane pilot. Many times we need to “collect” an airplane in order to assume the right gait for the maneuver to be performed. But often we can avoid getting behind the power curve, inadvertently stalling the plane and a myriad of other problems by simply “giving the plane its head”.