What’s in How to Fly Airplanes, the book? 

Just Basic Flight Control!


This book is written with primary reference to flight-control functions and related technique regarding an aircraft with “tractor” thrust acting forward of the center of lift. From this starting point, we will discuss how to utilize the flight controls, engine and gravity component-thrust, and elevator-pitch trim.

The discussions of flight control throughout the book will cover all realms of flight.  Initial chapters will evolve the terminology and principles related to the controls and their function.  Later chapters discuss how control relates to different flight conditions and scenarios. 


Chapter 1---Principles of Flight Control

This chapter discusses how aircraft fly. The design of an airplane is to fly, if started and turned loose, they can fly by themselves. We want to be able to understand what causes the aircraft to fly.

There are high-powered machines that can fly with only engine generated thrust lifting. Most airplanes use much less power by utilizing forward motion to create aerodynamic lifting force from reaction with the airmass, thereby enabling flight more economically. In all cases, pilots control that motion.

This initial chapter is going to mention some basic terms of math and physics. If you aren’t conversant in this, don’t worry about it. It mostly justifies the arrows pointing to show direction of the different forces that maneuver the aircraft.

Chapter 2---Flight Control and Maneuvering

In flight, pilot input to a control initiates a change of attitude. The actual response involves reaction to the forces with associated change of momentum to a new direction. This means change is not immediate, though from the pilot’s perspective, a control input gives a certain response. Don’t worry about it. Understand, all maneuvering is input by the pilot of flight control and power change, the attitude changes will take a little time. You just like to know what inputs will get the desired results.

How does an airplane fly?

Do not worry too much about how. Engineers designed your airplane to be aerodynamic and manufacturers built it to fly. It is a big chunk of aluminum sitting there. You cannot change that. You just deal with it. If started and turned loose, it could fly by itself, so what is all the fuss about? 

Your job, as the pilot, is the utilization of energy through thrust for motion to enable safe, controlled flight. Your airplane uses the potential energy of fuel, converted by the engine for power, developing thrust to attain and sustain the kinetic energy of motion for flight at altitude.  There the energy becomes potential energy of gravity from position which in turn can sustain the flight with gravity-component thrust of descent. A pilot steers the direction of thrust to obtain desired motion.

Chapter 3---Visual Flight Control

Visual flight is a method of maneuvering in relation to sighted references, a “sight picture”.   You direct the aircraft into a desired attitude and maintain that attitude related to reference to points on the surface or horizon, and ratios of the surface to the sky using the horizon as a line across the windshield.  

This is controlling toward sighted points on the horizon or ground.   It involves the alignment of distant objects toward which you fly by maintaining them in a constant position (unmoving) relative to you and a reference point on your aircraft window.   This is similar to aiming at targets with a gun.


Chapter 4---Visual Approach and Go-Around

All final approach and landings are visually controlled. This chapter discusses the procedures for visually attaining and maintaining stabilized descent and approach for landing and the procedures necessary for continuing the landing or abandoning an approach if required.


Chapter 5---Takeoff

Beginning a flight requires preparation and planning. Once in the aircraft, flight is operating a machine…but it’s a big machine. On the ground, think where the wingtips travel and the blasting air blows.

Takeoff is steering down the center-line of the runway at takeoff thrust until the machine begins to fly. It will fly by itself; its design is to do just that. Control is steering, pointing it in the direction you want to go.

Chapter 6---Landings

This chapter presents Normal, Short Field, Soft-Field, and Crosswind landing procedure.  There is discussion of different situations, conditions, and techniques available for making these landings.


Chapter 7---High Altitude Flight and the Atmosphere

This is discussion of the factors related to high altitude flight operations and the effects on engine performance in low-density air.  The reduced availability of oxygen for burning dramatically affects engines so in some situations there may not be sufficient excess thrust for safe maneuvering.


Chapter 8---Stalls

This chapter discusses conditions that lead to inadvertent stalling of the aircraft with emphasis on avoiding the stall, but in the event of a stall, recovery with minimum altitude loss.


Chapter 9---Emergency Landings

Emergency landings become necessary when losing engine power, imminent failure from loss of oil pressure and precautionary for other reasons such as fire. 

When the engine quits, immediate landing is the only choice.  Precautionary landings may not create quite as much concern but require the same cautions.

A very large percentage of emergency off field landings have resulted in touch down beyond a point down one-half the length of the chosen field, with many fatalities from overrunning the chosen landing site itself.

This chapter discusses considerations and necessary procedures to make off-field landings for any reason.


Chapter 10---Let's Go Fly

This chapter is putting it all together.  You are going on a flight and see what a pilot can do.

It isn’t about theory; it’s just flying the airplane.  Let’s see if you really understand how to control an aircraft!  There are short summaries of the required control inputs for each phase of flight.


Appendix 1---Physiology of Manual Flight Control

From page 13 of the 2014 March/April FAA Flight Safety-Brief. An excellent review of how manual control is affected by human reaction to physical input.


Appendix 2---Reciprocating Engines

Reciprocating engines operating without modern electronic or computer controlled inputs use manual control for starting and operation.

This discussion is about the basic considerations for engine operations. It requires understanding manual fuel/air mixture controlling for efficient burning.

© 2012RobertReser