During a recent airplane owners’ gathering in Florida, I did a short poll of the audience on basic aerodynamics. One result reflected a common pattern: pilots fear banking past 30 degrees (especially in the pattern)! Pilots at all levels erroneously believe 45-degree bank turn has much more “aerodynamic threat” (raises the stall speed much higher) than is actually the case. 70% of the pilots here thought a 45 degree turn added >40% to the stall speed (that is more than double the actual answer of 19%). And since most pilots fear banking and maneuvering in general, they are not confident enough for safe aircraft control. Generally, gentle and trimmed is a great idea for passengers and daily comfort, but timid piloting makes flying unsafe for many important reasons.
Like continual use of autopilot, super-gentle timid flying makes a pilot unwilling and unable to take accurate and decisive control when necessary (unpracticed skills are unavailable). Secondly, timidity in turning leads to pilots “turning the plane flat”- skidding the plane with rudder. This is much more dangerous than coordinated banking, and the real threat in the base to final phase of flight. A timid pilot’s brain is saying “danger: low and slow, don’t bank too much” due to gross misunderstanding of the real threat. The third problem with timid piloting adds more “airspeed buffer” and flies way too fast in the pattern. This leads to being unable to slow down and stabilize the final approach for a normal landing. All the accumulated energy gained through aerodynamic ignorance creates a much more dangerous landing. Most high-performance pilots fly final much too fast into the landing leading to porpoising and prop strikes. Other related problems are landing long and LOC on the runway. These are usually not fatal but regularly wreck expensive planes. 1.4 Vso on base to final yields almost 20% margin above stall even with a 45% bank (which is admittedly excessive). But most (timid) pilots get uncomfortable with even 30% of bank angle in the pattern.
Here is one more related point. Historic pitch/power dogma might lead to all kinds of pilot actions (depending on initial training) to attempt a correction in airspeed. Some pilots might simply add power (and often too much) to recapture lost airspeed. In a left-hand pattern the resulting uncompensated yaw might cause a further skidding force. A more nuanced approach to energy management (see new AFH Chapter 4 on energy management) would recommend a little power and a lower nose attitude (unload) and yield a better result. Practicing Envelope Extension Maneuvers at altitude makes a more confident and knowledgeable pilot. Fly SAFE out there (and often)!
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