Airmanship is an Unfair Advantage

The elevator is the angle of attack (AOA) control. The airplane is stable; it knows angle of attack and reacts to changes in AOA. Angle of attack controls airspeed, makes the airplane turn and makes the airplane stall. The pilot sees pitch, and that is not the same as AOA. Good airmanship resolves the apparent contradiction between the pilot’s use of elevator to control pitch and the airplane’s natural response to changes in AOA.
The elevator is the angle of attack (AOA) control. The airplane is stable; it knows angle of attack and reacts to changes in AOA. Angle of attack controls airspeed, makes the airplane turn and makes the airplane stall. The pilot sees pitch, and that is not the same as AOA. Good airmanship resolves the apparent contradiction between the pilot’s use of elevator to control pitch and the airplane’s natural response to changes in AOA.
Why do you enjoy flying an airplane? Do you enjoy navigating from place to place? Does the experience, the view, the serenity impact your senses? Many pilots especially enjoy maneuvering an airplane. They are airmen. You know who they are: the tailwheel pilot landing on one wheel in a strong cross wind; a float plane pilot making a glassy water landing on a small mountain lake; the airshow pilot rolling on vertical lines; and of course the bush pilot landing in the most unlikely places.

What advantage do airmen possess that allow them to accomplish maneuvers that less accomplished pilots can only imagine? In a sports analogy we can ask, if we start with all things equal, what makes winners? Mark Donahue, one of America’s greatest race car drivers, wrote about driving for Penske, one of America’s greatest racing teams, in his book titled The Unfair Advantage. Donahue makes the point that Penske has the ability to look inside the rules to seek a race advantage.

General piloting skills include using the control needed, when needed, as much as needed. Elevator controls pitch, ailerons controls roll and rudder controls yaw. That is how pilots control an airplane; it is called stick and rudder skill. Some pilots do it better than other pilots. That is the unfair advantage of airmanship.

Many pilots ignore the natural stability of certified airplanes. They think the plane will go out of control if the pilot does not keep a steady hand and make the airplane comply with control inputs. While many pilots push, yank and jerk on the controls to direct an airplane through a maneuver, good airmanship dictates that the pilot use the natural stability of an airplane to perform the maneuver. The unfair advantage is that good stick and rudder pilots direct the airplane and allow the airplane to fly the maneuver. An airman, a good stick, will become one with the airplane, and together perform a plethora of maneuvers.

Sounds great, but how do you do that? That brings us back to the sports analogy, Mark Donahue and winning – yes, winners work at it, but also they develop a deeper and definitive understand of the fundamentals, the rules.

Airmanship and Mastering Aircraft Control is the subject of this month’s featured video. click here

My two books, in paper back or E-book, and Key Point videos are available from Amazon.com.
Search “books/Jim Alsip” at Amazon or click here.