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Unusual Attitudes and Recoveries (Part One)

in Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers - Analog Instrumentation

An unusual attitude is an airplane attitude not normally required for instrument flight. Unusual attitudes may result from a number of conditions, such as turbulence, disorientation, instrument failure, confusion, preoccupation with flight deck duties, carelessness in cross-checking, errors in instrument interpretation, or lack of proficiency in aircraft control. Since unusual attitudes are not intentional maneuvers during instrument flight, except in training, they are often unexpected, and the reaction of an inexperienced or inadequately trained pilot to an unexpected abnormal flight attitude is usually instinctive rather than intelligent and deliberate. This individual reacts with abrupt muscular effort, which is purposeless and even hazardous in turbulent conditions, at excessive speeds, or at low altitudes. However, with practice, the techniques for rapid and safe recovery from unusual attitudes can be mastered.

When an unusual attitude is noted during the cross-check, the immediate problem is not how the airplane got there, but what it is doing and how to get it back to straight-and-level flight as quickly as possible.

Recognizing Unusual Attitudes

As a general rule, any time an instrument rate of movement or indication other than those associated with the basic instrument flight maneuvers is noted, assume an unusual attitude and increase the speed of cross-check to confirm the attitude, instrument error, or instrument malfunction.

Nose-high attitudes are shown by the rate and direction of movement of the altimeter needle, vertical speed needle, and airspeed needle, as well as the immediately recognizable indication of the attitude indicator (except in extreme attitudes). [Figure 7-39] Nose-low attitudes are shown by the same instruments, but in the opposite direction. [Figure 7-40]

Figure 7-39. Unusual attitude—nose-high.

Figure 7-39. Unusual attitude—nose-high.

Figure 7-40. Unusual attitude—nose-low.

Figure 7-40. Unusual attitude—nose-low.


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