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Straight Climbs and Descents – Leveling Off

in Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers - Electronic Flight Display

When leveling off from a descent with the intention of returning to cruise airspeed, first start by increasing the power to cruise prior to increasing the pitch back toward the level flight attitude. A technique used to determine how soon to start the level off is to lead the level off by an altitude corresponding to 10 percent of the rate of descent. For example, if the aircraft is descending at 1,000 fpm, start the level off 100 feet above the level off altitude. If the pitch attitude change is started late, there is a tendency to overshoot the desired altitude unless the pitch change is made with a rapid movement. Avoid making any rapid changes that could lead to control issues or spatial disorientation. Once in level pitch attitude, allow the aircraft to accelerate to the desired speed. Monitor the performance on the airspeed and altitude tapes. Make adjustments to the power in order to correct any deviations in the airspeed. Verify that the aircraft is maintaining level flight by cross-checking the altimeter tape. If deviations are noticed, make an appropriate smooth pitch change in order to arrive back at desired altitude. Any change in pitch requires a smooth coordinated change to the power setting. Monitor the airspeed in order to maintain the desired cruise airspeed.

To level off at a constant airspeed, the pilot must again determine when to start to increase the pitch attitude toward the level attitude. If pitch is the only item that is changing, airspeed varies due to the increase in drag as the aircraft’s pitch increases. A smooth coordinated increase in power needs to be made to a predetermined value in order to maintain speed. Trim the aircraft to relieve any control pressure that may have to be applied.


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