Avoid Loss of Control – Use the Tape

Use the Tape, refers to a piece of tape or a grease pencil mark on the windscreen, and parallel to the horizon in level flight. Placed in line with the horizon and pilot’s eye, the tape, or mark, becomes a reminder to use the sight picture, and is an aid to help the pilot focus and interpret attitude information during training and practice flights.
Use the Tape, refers to a piece of tape or a grease pencil mark on the windscreen, and parallel to the horizon in level flight. Placed in line with the horizon and pilot’s eye, the tape, or mark, becomes a reminder to use the sight picture, and is an aid to help the pilot focus and interpret attitude information during training and practice flights.
It is a documented statistic that loss of control (LOC) incidents among general aviation pilots flying “light aircraft” are mostly associated with a stall/spin event during a turning maneuver. Aviation pundits and safety experts frequently address this issue, but cannot seem to agree on the specific cause, much less an easy solution for reducing the occurrence of LOC accidents. Perhaps the problem has been over analyzed.  Facts suggest the cause of LOC can be simply explained; therefore, an effective, simple solution to LOC can be developed:

  • Generally, certified airplanes are stable aircraft and they do not stall; therefore, the airplane is not the problem.
  • All pilots know not to stall an airplane yet they do; therefore, education is not a major factor in LOC occurrence.
  • Pilots cause airplanes to stall when they apply and/or hold excessive elevator deflection; therefore, loss of control is a pilot performance issue.

A solution for reducing the occurrence of loss of control is to watch the tape (see photo)*:

  • As the tape moves towards or away from the horizon, it is a reference helping the pilot see pitch attitude information on the sight picture.
  • The tape reminds the pilot to select and use an aiming point in the sight picture. Selecting an aiming point develops an alternative habit to looking at instruments or ground reference for maintaining ground track and heading.
  • The tape draws attention to the horizon for bank attitude information, and provides indications of yaw, two essential elements of a turn.

*(note: In an airplane with side by side seats, use two tapes respectively parallel and aligned with horizon during 30 degree banks left and right. A proper sight picture in level flight places the horizon between the two tapes.)

Form positive habits. Use the Tape to monitor pitch, bank, yaw and drift. When there is a change to any element of the sight picture, verify the cause is not inadvertent over-control before changing power or trim. 

A common cause of over-control is the pilot moving his head and shoulders as he turns and looks about. Because a pilot is not focused on sight picture when “looking about”, he will not see his over-controlling inputs. LOC incidents commonly occur during low level circling maneuvers, base to final turns and turns towards a landing spot after engine failure. The action that triggers LOC is the pilot’s habit to “look” at the ground, runway or landing spot, while executing a turn without sight picture information. The actual movement to “look” causes inadvertent pitch, and without focus on the sight picture, the pilot does not see the nose move, and he never sees the approaching stall until it is too late to recover.

Use the tape to master the sight picture; master the turn (see June Hangar Talk); don’t fall victim to loss of control.