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Straight and Level Flight – Pitch Control – Partial Panel Flight

in Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers - Electronic Flight Display

One important skill to practice is partial panel flight by referencing the altimeter as the primary pitch indicator. Practice controlling the pitch by referencing the altitude tape and trend indicator alone without the use of the attitude indicator. Pilots need to learn to make corrections to altitude deviations by referencing the rate of change of the altitude tape and trend indicator. When operating in IMC and in a partial panel configuration, the pilot should avoid abrupt changes to the control yoke. Reacting abruptly to altitude changes can lead to large pitch changes and thus a larger divergence from the initial altitude.


When a pilot is controlling pitch by the altitude tape and altitude trend indicators alone, it is possible to overcontrol the aircraft by making a larger than necessary pitch correction. Overcontrolling causes the pilot to move from a nose-high attitude to a nose-low attitude and vice versa. Small changes to pitch are required to insure prompt corrective actions are taken to return the aircraft to its original altitude with less confusion.

When an altitude deviation occurs, two actions need to be accomplished. First, make a smooth control input to stop the needle movement. Once the altitude tape has stopped moving, make a change to the pitch attitude to start back to the entry altitude.

During instrument flight with limited instrumentation, it is imperative that only small and precise control inputs are made. Once a needle movement is indicated denoting a deviation in altitude, the pilot needs to make small control inputs to stop the deviation. Rapid control movements only compound the deviation by causing an oscillation effect. This type of oscillation can quickly cause the pilot to become disoriented and begin to fixate on the altitude. Fixation on the altimeter can lead to a loss of directional control as well as airspeed control.

As a general rule of thumb, for altitude deviations less than 100 feet, utilize a pitch change of 1 degree, which equates to 1⁄5 of the thickness of the chevron. Small incremental pitch changes allow the performance to be evaluated and eliminate overcontrolling of the aircraft.

Instrumentation needs to be utilized collectively, but failures will occur that leave the pilot with only limited instrumentation. That is why partial panel flying training is important. If the pilot understands how to utilize each instrument independently, no significant change is encountered in carrying out the flight when other instruments fail.

 

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