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Straight and Level Flight – Common Errors – Pitch

by Flight Learnings

in Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers - Electronic Flight Display

Pitch errors usually result from the following errors:

1. Improper adjustment of the yellow chevron (aircraft symbol) on the attitude indicator.

Corrective Action: Once the aircraft has leveled off and the airspeed has stabilized, make small corrections to the pitch attitude to achieve the desired performance. Cross-check the supporting instruments for validation.

2. Insufficient cross-check and interpretation of pitch instruments. [Figure 7-61]

Example: The airspeed indication is low. The pilot, believing a nose-high pitch attitude exists, applies forward pressure without noting that a low power setting is the cause of the airspeed discrepancy.

Corrective Action: Increase the rate of cross-check of all the supporting flight instruments. Airspeed and altitude should be stabilized before making a control input.

Figure 7-61. Insufficient cross-check. The problem is power and not nose-high. In this case, the pilot decreased pitch inappropriately.

Figure 7-61. Insufficient cross-check. The problem is power and not nose-high. In this case, the pilot decreased pitch inappropriately.

3. Acceptance of deviations.

Example: A pilot has an altitude range of ±100 feet according to the practical test standards for straight-and level-flight. When the pilot notices that the altitude has deviated by 60 feet, no correction is made because the altitude is holding steady and is within the standards.

Corrective Action: The pilot should cross-check the instruments and, when a deviation is noted, prompt corrective actions should be taken in order to bring the aircraft back to the desired altitude. Deviations from altitude should be expected but not accepted.

4. Overcontrolling—excessive pitch changes.

Example: A pilot notices a deviation in altitude. In an attempt to quickly return to altitude, the pilot makes a large pitch change. The large pitch change destabilizes the attitude and compounds the error.

Corrective Action: Small, smooth corrections should be made in order to recover to the desired altitude (0.5° to 2° depending on the severity of the deviation). Instrument flying is comprised of small corrections to maintain the aircraft attitude. When flying in IMC, a pilot should avoid making large attitude changes in order to avoid loss of aircraft control and spatial disorientation.

5. Failure to maintain pitch corrections.

Pitch changes need to be made promptly and held for validation. Many times pilots make corrections and allow the pitch attitude to change due to not trimming the aircraft. It is imperative that any time a pitch change is made; the trim is readjusted in order to eliminate any control pressures that are being held. A rapid cross-check aids in avoiding any deviations from the desired pitch attitude.

Example: A pilot notices a deviation in altitude. A change in the pitch attitude is accomplished but no adjustment to the trim is made. Distractions cause the pilot to slow the cross-check and an inadvertent reduction in the pressure to the control column commences. The pitch attitude then changes, thus complicating recovery to the desired altitude.

Corrective Action: The pilot should initiate a pitch change and then immediately trim the aircraft to relieve any control pressures. A rapid cross-check should be established in order to validate the desired performance is being achieved.

6. Fixation during cross-check.

Devoting an unequal amount of time to one instrument either for interpretation or assigning too much importance to an instrument. Equal amounts of time should be spent during the cross-check to avoid an unnoticed deviation in one of the aircraft attitudes.

Example: A pilot makes a correction to the pitch attitude and then devotes all of the attention to the altimeter to determine if the pitch correction is valid. During this time, no attention is paid to the heading indicator, which shows a turn to the left. [Figure 7-62]

Figure 7-62. The pilot has fixated on pitch and altitude, leaving bank indications unattended. Note the trend line to the left.

Figure 7-62. The pilot has fixated on pitch and altitude, leaving bank indications unattended. Note the trend line to the left.

Corrective Action: The pilot should monitor all instrumentation during the cross-check. Do not fixate on one instrument waiting for validation. Continue to scan all instruments to avoid allowing the aircraft to begin a deviation in another attitude.

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