About the Author

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Southport, Manitoba, Canada
Steve Pomroy is a professional flight instructor and aviation writer. He has been teaching since 1995 and holds an Airline Transport Pilot License, Class 1 Instructor and Aerobatic Instructor Ratings, military QFI, and an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering. He's written and published three flight training books through his company, SkyWriters Publishing, and has several other books under development. Steve currently teaches RCAF pilot candidates on their Primary Flight Training course.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Game and the Scoreboard

One of the constant issues we deal with as flight instructors is the need for students/pilots to LOOK OUTSIDE during flight operations. The flight and system instruments tend to be a huge distraction, and this problem only seems to have gotten worse as avionics have gotten fancier and pilots have gotten more experience playing video games.

The phrase that we often use is "chasing needles" which is what happens when a pilot over-references the instrument indications and under-references the aircraft attitude. The result: an oscillatory flight path with no stable flight parameters. Why is this? Because the aircraft takes time to respond to control inputs, and the instruments take time to display the results of the control inputs—especially the pitot-static instruments. So if we make, for example, a pitch correction until the altitude says what we want it to, the aircraft will have already overshot that position and will be in the process of overshooting it further. If we try to fix this with reference to the altimeter, we simply reverse the problem. Thus the phrase, "chasing needles".

Chasing needles can be entertaining to watch, and it's easy to fix. As one of my co-workers likes to point out: "The instruments tell you what the aircraft was doing, and the attitude tells you what the aircraft will be doing". This is a saying that I've shamelessly stolen and used with my own students. It is closely related to another saying that I've also shamelessly stolen: "Outside is the game, inside is the scoreboard". All of this leads us to what we actually want to do for positive aircraft control: LOOK OUTSIDE and control the attitude with reference to the horizon.

Of course, it's also worth noting (for our IFR brethren) that this rule doesn't change just because we're flying in cloud and on instruments—it just means that our attitude reference moves from the real horizon to the fake one on the attitude indicator.

Happy Flying!

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