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#237 Tara’s “Aha!” Moment

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Written in July, 2019

All of us who fly are indebted to our flight instructors.  There are good ones and not so good ones.  But they guide their students to their private pilot certificates and in doing so they teach a whole bunch of details.  In fact, the number of facts they teach us and habits they ingrain in us are truly amazing.  It’s one of those habits that I’ve noticed for some time and which I feel deserves some attention.  It’s where our hands are when we fly, particularly when we are in the pattern and while landing.  When I was a student pilot, my first flight instructor was very firm about the fact that my left hand should be on the ram’s horn yoke of the Cessna and my right hand should always be on the throttle.  Why is that?  Well, the main reason seems to be that if we need some power to help conquer a high sink rate or even start a go around in the event of a sloppy landing, our hand will already be there, and it’ll be ready to apply the power.  

Now, as many of my students know, I’m dead set against the use of power to save a bounced landing, preferring the use of elevator.  But most CFI’s feel the other way.  They will depend on the use of power to save a botched landing, not realizing that the use of power increases the length of the landing.  That may be one of the reasons I don’t like it.  But there is another factor to be considered.  That is the fact that two hands will give us greater precision when we apply elevator.  Of course, if we have one of those hands on the throttle, we can’t use two hands on the control wheel!  So, although I used to be one of those teachers who insisted that his students keep a hand on the throttle, I have changed.  I realized that some students and rated pilots could be trusted.  They didn’t have to have a hand on the throttle and that right hand could be a lot more useful contributing to the force on the control wheel.  


While flying with Tara, I pointed out that she really didn’t need to have a hand on the throttle because she could be trusted to dependably use two hands on the control wheel.   Well!  You would have thought that I just gave her another hand!  

“Sunavacheezmaker!”, she hollered.  “I didn’t know that!  Wow, this is great!”  And it was great.  This very talented aviatrix had been held back by something that she had been trained to do for years.  Freedom from that perceived need to have a hand on the throttle made all the difference in the world.  And it may spell the difference between flying well and bouncing those landings.  Tara’s “Aha” moment was mine as well. 

Although I had made my feelings known to several students, I’d never made a big deal out of it.  Now I have.  I hope it makes a difference!