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#198 Shaking Hands

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I’ve mentioned this subject to most of my students from time to time.  So it seems only natural to write it up for those who may never fly with me.

I’m referring to the fact that it doesn’t matter who you are or how well you fly.  When you climb into an airplane you’ve never flown there is an amount of time when you are getting used to it.  I call this “shaking hands” with the plane.  Just as we introduce ourselves to others, we have to go through a moment of introduction to a new airplane.  After all, until you do certain maneuvers and practice certain operations, you don’t know how the airplane will react to your inputs.

I’ve been asked what I do during this hand shaking period.  Since coordination is so important, I usually perform an adverse yaw experiment.  Keeping my feet on the floor, I perform some Dutch rolls to see how much adverse yaw is present.  It helps a bit because then, when I perform a coordinated roll, I have an idea how much adverse yaw I have to compensate for.

I also experiment to see how much rudder is required to compensate for left yawing tendency (that’s “left-turning tendency” for you Acme fliers) in climbing flight.  That’s also a good time to see if it’s properly trimmed so that there is no left yawing tendency in level cruising flight.

Another maneuver that helps me is the alternating side slip.  Many of my students have encountered the fact that there is a huge disparity in how much rudder an airplane has.  For example, our little Cessna 140 has an extremely effective and sensitive rudder.  By comparison, a Cessna 172 has very little rudder.  So if the objective of the alternating sideslip is to use rudder to maintain heading while the aileron is holding bank, we find that the 172 will run out of rudder after very little bank, where the 140 will allow us to use significantly more bank without running out of rudder.  That’s kinda nice to know.  That knowledge of the rudder’s effectiveness will also help you as the aircraft accelerates during takeoff or decelerates as it’s rolling out after a landing.

Since I’ve done a bunch of slipping, it seems only fair to do some skidding as well.  So I usually throw in some Sky Doodles, the only skidding maneuver I teach.

Since all the Acme guys are, by now, complaining that I haven’t included a stall series, I’ll certainly include that.  The only difference is that I don’t consider a stall to be an emergency, calling for an immediate recovery.  I prefer the “Falling leaf”, keeping the aircraft stalled while rudder controls its heading and bank.  Some airplanes are damned near impossible to keep going straight with only rudder, so it’s important to know if you’re flying one of those!

Formation flying calls for a real understanding of the airplane’s characteristics.  It’s also a little harder to organize.  I’ll never forget the first time I flew the Schweizer 2-32 in formation with a C 172 camera ship.  I was amazed and impressed with how quickly it could re-join and also how incredibly effective it’s spoilers were at bringing it to a stop, locked into formation.  It’s safe to say that a similar exercise is helpful when flying a powered aircraft.   It won’t “wow” you so much, however!

So now I’m ready to fly the airplane, whether doing a job or providing flight instruction.  But it’s only the beginning.  That hand-shaking will continue for a while until the airplane and I are truly operating as a team.