• Visualizing Your Training by Gene Whitt

    A student pilot, or any other pilot for that matter, can practice flying even while not in a plane. A situation can be visualized and simulated actions can be practiced. Flying is not only with the mind but can and should be in the mind. In your mind, plan ahead of a flight for the combinations of controls, attitudes and maneuvers required to put the aircraft where you want it. Skill is best demonstrated by the manner in which a particular maneuver follows your 'in the mind' planning.

    At some point in your training the instructor may cover the airspeed indicator and have you "feel", sense and visualize the aircraft as it proceeds. With allowances for the density altitude and wind you should be able to "visualize" the aircraft around the pattern to a landing. Some flying skill will be acquired subconsciously, but in the main the student will need to rely on their physical senses to control the aircraft. Sight will always be the primary sense for your flying. In the beginning maximize your use of the external sight picture. There will be plenty of time to learn to relate the sight picture to the instrument picture. The other senses have information that is available in the noise, smell, and feel of pressure and vibration. We feel changes in vibration frequency and amplitude. The senses combine to give the pilot an over all feeling of what is both right and wrong with the aircraft. Hearing is a neglected sense. A student wants to learn the several 'constants' of engine rpm and airspeed sounds.

    The sense of touch is the most neglected sense. You can only 'feel' an airplane when holding it lightly, very lightly. The sense of smell is best utilized as a danger sense. You can learn the smell of the aircraft when it is performing well. Any other smell serves as a warning. A change in your sensory perception of aircraft performance is the first alert to take precautionary action. You should never smell fuel. The last sense to get the fine-tuning required to fly well is the sense of sight. With practice of the right kind, you will begin to see the nose and horizon relationship that exists in every flight situation. It takes time.

    Speed is set visually; touch and kinesthetic sensitivity sense speed changes. If you do not sense these changes you are more apt to misuse the rudder. The body can sense, and be ever more sensitive to the side pressures of a slip or a skid. Modern aircraft make it possible for a pilot to fly dangerously well without being sensitive to an uncoordinated rudder.

    The ability to anticipate changes in control pressures required for a particular maneuver must be developed. Failure to anticipate the rudder movement required to move the nose as airspeed decreases is a most common flight error. The behavior of instruments such as the airspeed indicator and vertical speed indicator that lag in relation to sound and attitude changes must be expected and understood. Chasing the airspeed indicator is a common student fault. Even worse is not recognizing that the VSI takes about 12 seconds before giving accuracy indications unless the control movements are exceptionally smooth. Starting the trim from a known position and keeping track of its movements in various flight configurations makes possible rapid/correct trim pressure corrections.

    You should accept every opportunity to review your basic skills by airwork and ground reference. This is not a waste of time or money. Exercises that improve your ability to make wind-drift corrections and timing will improve your airport pattern work. You need to make adjustments by anticipation. The only reason your instructor 'knows' when you are high. low, wide, too fast or slow is because of his experience in anticipation. Do whatever it takes to place your aircraft where you want it.

    Do you fly around, below, above certain areas to avoid communications? Do you try to enter a certain way into an airport and to avoid others? Do you avoid crosswind-landing opportunities when they become available. Do you ignore practice in ground reference, stalls, slow flight, and night proficiency? Challenge your weaknesses until they become areas of strength.

    Gene Whitt
    gwhitt@ix.netcom.com
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