Stick and Rudder – What Does That Mean?

In pilot school, you might have been taught to “hold the nose up” during a turn. If so, did you ever consider that advice could kill you? Consider the fundamental fact that certified airplanes do not stall; pilots cause airplanes to stall
In pilot school, you might have been taught to “hold the nose up” during a turn. If so, did you ever consider that advice could kill you? Consider the fundamental fact that certified airplanes do not stall; pilots cause airplanes to stall
The FAA’s deep concerns about fatal loss of control (LOC) accidents has spawned a resurgence in teaching pilots the fundamentals commonly referred to as stick and rudder skills. That is a good thing; however, what does that mean? In practice, it seems to me that some flight educators de-emphasize stick in favor of the rudder to explain LOC.

The term “stick and rudder” refers to the fundamentals of airmanship: do not stall and control yaw. Please consider the following:

• An airplane stalls when its wing exceeds the critical angle of attack. The elevator controls angle of attack. Certified airplanes are stable; therefore, they do not stall. Pilots make them stall with excessive deflection of elevator (they pull or push on yoke). Do not stall means “stop pulling back”!
• Yaw is an airplane’s rotation on its vertical axis. Yaw is caused by use of aileron, P-factor and gyroscopic effect. The rudder controls yaw but will also cause yaw when misused.
• A spin is defined as stall and yaw. An airplane has entered a spin when during a stall it yaws. (Note relevance of the two fundamentals – do not stall and control yaw.)

If you are a pilot, you have read and listened to CFI’s and other flight education pundits make reference to how a pilot’s poor rudder skills result in skidding (or slipping) turns that can end with a tragic loss of control and a stall / spin accident. Frequently, too much emphasis is given to yaw and the stall is not acknowledged as the primary factor in LOC.

A pilot can induce yaw or fail to correct natural yaw every which way and the airplane will not spin. As evidence consider the forward slip, the side slip, the Pitts pilot making a slipping turn; how about the student pilots, the private pilots and the commercial pilots who fly with feet on the floor and never control the naturally induced yaw. Fail to control yaw and your airplane will create unnecessary drag, it will fly awkwardly and your passengers will be uncomfortable; they will not enjoy flying with you. Inducing yaw with improper application of rudder or failure to control naturally induced yaw makes you a not so good pilot, but it does not kill you.

Control yaw is a fundamental of airmanship, but it is optional. If you want to ignore yaw that is your option – you are pilot in command. Not optional is the first fundamental of airmanship, do not stall! Pilots do not know angle of attack, but the airplane does; airplane stability will adjust the angle of attack as needed to prevent a stall unless the pilot over-controls and flies with a heavy hand. I think any person given pilot privileges should understand and master the simple premise that certified airplanes do not stall; pilots cause them to stall with elevator pressure (most commonly applied as a yank or jerk).

In pilot school, students are taught that the elevator controls pitch because that is what the pilot sees. The elevator actually controls angle of attack – what the airplane sees. Because pilots do not see angle of attack, pulling on the yoke during a low level maneuver is like playing Russian roulette, but instead of a bullet, it is the stall that will kill them.

Pilots need knowledge and practical education on stall recognition, stall avoidance and stall recovery. That knowledge is:
• the primary fundamental of flight,
• the number one principle,
• the prime directive.

The FAA and the pundits for pilot education have not done a good job in preparing pilots to avoid the LOC accident. They confuse the issue by injecting factors that minimize the essential role of the stall – no stall, no spin!

So by all means, develop your airmanship with stick and rudder skills
(I recommend my course – it is great!); however, please understand that using the rudder correctly is optional, but the directive “do not stall” is mandatory.

This month’s featured video is Base to Final – The Booby Trap Turn. click here