WHEN YOU ASK an experienced martial artist if he has ever used his training, don’t be surprised if he says, “I use it every day.” He’s not talking about kung-fuing intruders or bad drivers. He’s speaking about how he uses the hidden value of his training—self-discipline and aware-ness—in his daily life.
Most of the basic flight maneuvers students are required to learn also have hidden values. Your job is to make sure your student sees and understands those hidden values. Take, for instance, steep turns. Yes, the FAA says that the objective of the steep turn is to “develop the smoothness, coordination, division of attention, and control techniques necessary for the execution of maximum-performance turns when the airplane is near its performance limits.” There’s nothing wrong with that. But it doesn’t speak to the essential value offered by studying this maneuver.
Steep turns teach you what happens when the stall speed rises to meet the airplane, instead of the airplane slowing to meet the stall speed. Stall recognition is as important as stall recovery, and the steep turn provides students with an extended exposure to the clues that precede an accelerated stall: the large rearward draw on the elevator, higher stick forces, and the sustained sense of being forced down in the seat by an increase in load factor. Steep turns performed with the throttle at flight idle allow you to demonstrate how easy it is to approach the critical angle of attack with the nose pointed below the horizon. The steep turn is one of the few nonaerobatic maneuvers that provide experience with these pre-accelerated-stall clues.
Turns around a point is another maneuver with a hidden value student pilots often don’t recognize. This maneuver allows your student to make a highly accurate assessment of wind direction without using any sort of ground wind indicator (for example, a wind sock, wind tee, blowing trees, wave crests, or smoke). Students are able to evaluate the wind’s direction as they maneuver to maintain a constant turn radius about a ground reference. What we often fail to point out is that the airplane continues to fly perfectly without stalling while turning from upwind to downwind to upwind and so on.
It turns out that more than a few pilots believe that turning downwind (especially in strong winds) results in the airplane experiencing a loss of airspeed and stalling. Yes, an airplane can stall when turning downwind in the presence of massive negative wind shear, or if the pilot interprets an increase in ground speed as a sudden rapid descent (followed by an aft pull on the elevator that results in a stall). Airplanes, however, don’t stall because they turn downwind. Turns around a point is the perfect demonstration for disabusing students of the idea that an airplane can somehow sense the wind’s speed and direction once it leaves the ground.
Flight at minimum controllable airspeed (MCA) is another maneuver whose hidden value helps students understand how power influences stall speed. You can demonstrate this by having your student enter MCA with the stall horn just barely audible. Then instruct her to reduce power while maintaining the same attitude. She should hear the stall horn instantly whine louder. This demonstrates that the airplane can fly at a slightly slower airspeed before stalling with power applied than with power off.
Even straight-and-level flight has a hidden value that often goes unmentioned. It’s the perfect maneuver for demonstrating how deviating from straight flight reduces the vertical component of lift, resulting in the airplane pitching nose down. For example, place your student in straight and level flight and trim for that condition. Now have him or her apply just enough rudder to bank the airplane to the right about five degrees. The results are immediate and clear. As the vertical component of lift tilts sideways, less of it acts vertically. Weight is now greater than lift and the airplane pitches nose down in an attempt to balance these two opposing forces. Roll the airplane back to straight flight, and the airplane eventually returns to level flight as the force of lift once again acts entirely vertically. This is the hidden value of straight-and-level flight that allows you to accelerate your student’s understanding of the need to apply elevator backpressure when entering a turn.
Not everything is as it seems to be. Sometimes, it’s more. This is especially true of the maneuvers we teach our primary students. There are hidden values in nearly all elementary flight maneuvers, and it’s the instructor’s job to identify them and share these with his or her flight students.