Pitch – Power – Trim

You can make practice part of every flight if you make the landing pattern a maneuver (you have to land – right?) Assign values to each phase of your landing pattern and try to consistently adhere to those values every time you fly a landing pattern. The values shown in this diagram is how I make my landing pattern a maneuver. It sounds easy, but you might be surprised if you try it. Power settings, trim, coordinated turns, situational awareness and use of the site picture are factors that will affect your target performance which is to maintain a constant airspeed. If your airplane has flaps then airspeeds will consistently decrease respective to flap setting.
You can make practice part of every flight if you make the landing pattern a maneuver (you have to land – right?) Assign values to each phase of your landing pattern and try to consistently adhere to those values every time you fly a landing pattern. The values shown in this diagram is how I make my landing pattern a maneuver. It sounds easy, but you might be surprised if you try it. Power settings, trim, coordinated turns, situational awareness and use of the site picture are factors that will affect your target performance which is to maintain a constant airspeed. If your airplane has flaps then airspeeds will consistently decrease respective to flap setting.

Every pilot should know the procedure “Pitch, power, trim”. That is one of the fundamentals taught in pilot school. It is also a great example of what I call Monkey Flying, the foundation of flight instruction; for example, the instructor demonstrates a procedure, instructor and student do the procedure together, student performs the procedure.

One of the basic maneuvers I teach in my tailwheel endorsement course is flying the traffic pattern by the numbers. The student is challenged to consistently meet the criteria that defines the traffic pattern to be flown; for example, on airspeed with defined power settings. I have been amazed to discover that very few pilots can actually do this this. The issue is most pronounced during the transition from climbing flight during cross wind to level flight on down wind. Target airspeed is 80 in both phases.

Controlling airspeed is fundamental, so why do so many pilots have trouble doing it? Every pilot has his own issues when challenged with controlling airspeed, but in the situation of transition to level flight on downwind a common demon is monkey flying.

Think about the procedure you learned in pilot school. To transition from climbing to level flight:
1. Push the nose down (pitch).
2. Accelerate to airspeed and set power for level flight.
3. Trim to hold airspeed.
Pilots make that a muscle memory, they monkey fly. Pilots associate pitch with forward stick, pushing the nose down. It is muscle memory, they do not think about it.

I return to flying a traffic pattern by the numbers, and the challenge of transition from climbing to level flight while maintaining airspeed.
• A pilot is climbing at 80 mph with full power to 1000 feet above ground.
• To stop the climb, pilot must reduce power (2300 rpm in my airplane).
• Airspeed must remain at 80 mph.
Seems simple enough, but most pilots will not maintain airspeed during this transition. Airspeed increases of 10 to 20 mph are commonly the rule. Pilots typically monkey fly this transition – pitch, power, trim. At 1000 feet agl, a pilot will typically pitch to level flight, reduce power and attempt to trim. The result is always downwind at busted altitude and high airspeed.

Instead of monkey flying, pilots should focus on the fundamentals. In this situation the applicable fundamentals are pitch controls airspeed and power controls altitude. During the transition from climbing crosswind to level downwind the fundamentals apply as follows:
1. Pitch for airspeed. But wait! The airplane is already flying at 80 mph. A pilot should look at sight picture and recognize that 80 mph is a nose high attitude. Do not pitch the nose down. Instead maintain nose high attitude.
2. Power for altitude. You want to stop climbing, so reduce power to a known setting. In my airplane 2300 rpm will hold altitude at 80 mph.
3. Trim. Hold the nose high and trim to relieve stick pressure at 80 mph.

If you missed last month’s featured video, I encourage you to watch it this month. Click here to see selected clips from my two Key Point Videos available at Amazon.

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