Coordinated Turn – More Talk About the Words Pilots Use

From the cockpit, the pilot views a typical base to final turn. Student pilots are cautioned how to use the rudder to make this a coordinated turn. Failure to do so can lead to loss of control; perhaps a deadly stall/spin event. Typically pilots associate coordinated flight with avoidance of stalls and spins.
From the cockpit, the pilot views a typical base to final turn. Student pilots are cautioned how to use the rudder to make this a coordinated turn. Failure to do so can lead to loss of control; perhaps a deadly stall/spin event. Typically pilots associate coordinated flight with avoidance of stalls and spins.
In last month’s Hangar Talk, we thought about how aviation trainers, trainees and pilots alike routinely repeat words and phrases that constitute aviation terminology, pilot jargon. Aviators repeat popular words and phrases and assume the listener, a member of the group, understands the full meaning. But maybe not. Over time the fundamental concepts and meanings behind some pilot jargon has been lost for too many pilots.

My favorite example of an over-used and misunderstood word is “coordinate” as in coordinate a turn. As an example, the caption of this month’s photo makes the point that in the context of a turn, pilots relate improper use of rudder with a stall or even a spin, and pilots are cautioned to “coordinate” a turn.

What does coordinate mean? The concept of coordinate can be broad and include many situations and flight control references; however, my perspective about the word “coordinate” is specific and definitive as applied in the most basic of all maneuvers – a turn. Most pilots associate the word “coordinate” with the use of rudder; but when asked to explain how they use the rudder, pilot explanations are varied, frequently imprecise and commonly refer to keeping the ball centered. As commonly used, the word “coordinate” has not been effective to help pilots understand and master the turn. Instead of confusing pilots with ambiguous words relating to critical flight maneuvers, why don’t we keep it simple and teach pilots to relate to the two fundamentals of flight? Don’t stall and control yaw.

Beyond landing in a cross wind, the rudder’s single purpose is to control yaw. It is a simple and beautiful concept – use rudder to control yaw whatever the cause and whenever yaw occurs. Rolling into and out of a turn can produce adverse yaw that requires rudder to control. When established in a turn ailerons are neutral, there is no yaw, so rudder is not required; however, when established in climbing and descending turns, rudder is required to control P-factor yaw.

As currently used in flight training the word “coordinate” causes pilots to relate the use of rudder to a stall. Student pilots are taught that a “coordinated turn” will avoid the dreaded stall/spin when turning base to final. What is missing from this instruction is the most basic and fundamental principle of flight – Airplanes do not stall; pilots cause airplanes to stall by excessive deflection of the elevator. Airplanes stall only when pilots pull back on stick. The rudder has nothing to do with a stall.

A pilot’s understanding of Them Words, the words we use when speaking and writing about flying, greatly affects our pilot skills and habits. Think about the words you use:
• Pilots and especially flight instructors, should include context and meaning when using aviation jargon.
• Do not assume that pilots understand a terminology or an implied context.
• Avoid stand-alone tired axioms and rote memory when discussing skills.

This month’s featured video, Booby Trap Turn, explains how a pilot can use the flight controls to set a trap for himself. click here

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