The Secret of Chandelles (and Safety): “Cross-Coordination!”

A commercial chandelle is just a more extreme version of a normal climbing turn, with specific parameters. If an applicant can’t explain the forces at work and required control pressures during an “FAA oral” they will never get to the airplane.  The major problem for pilots trying to fly chandelles is first, understanding the forces at work and second, mastering proper control usage in a climbing turn. Both of these are essential for *all* pilots to be safe since “high power/high nose” is the most fatal phase of flight. That is why chandelles are a great training maneuver for *all* pilots and why the commercial certificate is called “a rudder rating.”

Mastering coordination in a climbing turn is essential for *every* pilot! This “high power/high nose” configuration on take-off is the most fatal phase of flight.

Rudder cancels yaw. Pitch, power, and aileron deflection can all create yaw in different ways. A smooth pilot needs to understand and anticipate yaw so they can preemptively” cancel it. This is what defines the commercial level of proficiency. A pilot who uses the rudder “reactively,” applying the rudder *after* the yaw has occurred (stepping on the ball when they see a deflection), will never make a smooth pilot. It is necessary to understand “when and why” yaw occurs and smoothly and appropriately apply the rudder. Hopefully, we are building this awareness and skill in *all* pilots at an almost instinctive level, but it is a requirement of the commercial (we’ll discuss slow flight soon).

When power is applied on the runway for takeoff, every aircraft swerves left – “light bulb moment: physics at work!” Seeing an uncorrected swerve left is the first “tell” for a pilot examiner or a sharp CFI monitoring a pilot. Starting with their very first take-off, every pilot should be told that when the power is applied, the right rudder will be required.

Early (rote) CFI advice to every learner (subject to detailed explanation/elucidation later)?

“Just about every application of significant power will cause left yaw and require the application of right rudder. Similarly,  every significant yoke/stick back pressure will also cause left yaw and require right rudder. You need the feet; anticipate yaw!”

If an evaluator then also sees a deflection of the yoke against this force- the “driving habit”– this pilot just revealed they do not understand the physical forces at work. All those left-turning tendencies on the ground need to be countered (hopefully preemptively), with smooth rudder application (and some planes get help from a linked nosewheel). As the power is applied, smooth right rudder pressure will prevent any swerving (and this required pressure will decrease as speed and control effectiveness increase).

On rotation, the increasing angle of attack (and loss of nosewheel steering in control-linked planes) will create more left force. This also often results in pilots applying right aileron control (ouch!) Aileron application creates adverse yaw and induces even *more* left yaw. This results in the common “dipsy doodle” rotation. Many pilots (even very experienced ones) rotate and climb with this little swerve and skid on rotation. This is another huge “tell” for any sharp evaluator. All this is best corrected by looking directly down the runway during acceleration and rotation. Wings level lift off requires right rudder and a little *left* aileron in a piston plane. Very soon, yaw correction becomes natural and *your* flying immediately improves. A good rotation occurs with a wings level, straight-up movement of the nose; no “dipsey doodle” please.

Unfortunately, many pilots also climb out and fly their left-hand pattern in a skidding turn (Pro-tip; that is dangerous). After they roll into the left-hand turn, many pilots fail to reapply the right rudder pressure required while turning. Consequently, their plane is skidding. This is exactly the kind of mishandling an evaluator should *not* see in a commercial-level pilot. This is also why most fatal accidents occur in this phase of flight. The whole purpose of the commercial-level training is to correct and eliminate this private-pilot level of mishandling. BTW, as a CFI, if a commercial-level learner does not demonstrate coordinated turns leaving the pattern, we are definitely not going to work on chandelles that day. We back up and deconstruct their skillset to work on basic climbing turns and coordination first.

Every propeller-driven aircraft (depending on how they are rigged, power and aerodynamic compensation) actually requires slight cross-control to achieve coordination on climb out. Right rudder and slight reverse aileron (compensates for proverse roll) results in a very efficient wings level, ball-centered climb. To many inadequately trained pilots, this seems like dangerous heresy. “Cross controlled” at the “YouTube level of understanding” seems like certain death in any airplane. But this plane is “cross-coordinated” and will climb much better without the drag of the uncoordinated climb. This is exactly the understanding and control forces that make a chandelle work; “Cross-Coordination!” If a pilot is not thoroughly trained to the correlation level of understanding in these forces and corrections in a climb, their chandelles will never work.

On a calm day during climb out, you can easily see the increase in vertical speed at a constant power setting and airspeed as you apply the rudder/aileron required to achieve a “wings level, coordinated” climb. (GLider pilots see this every day circling in lift)

This same control pressure should become instinctive for a commercial-level pilot. A chandelle left requires massive right rudder pressure (almost to the floor) and opposite aileron to achieve coordination (ball-centered) in the final part of this maneuver (high power/high nose). Whatever you have to do with the controls to achieve coordinated flight is “permissible” – and in this case required! This is the kind of awareness and control usage that defines the commercial level of pilot skill (in addition to that nasty power-off 180° accuracy landing).

Every aviator should avail themselves of the increased proficiency and safety that commercial maneuvers build into a pilot. Once a pilot overcomes their rote-level aversion to “cross-controls” and understands “cross-coordinated” they are safer, smoother, more efficient pilots. Find a savvy CFI and tune up your climbing turns. This is where the majority of accidents occur. Fly safely out there and often.

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Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

One thought on “The Secret of Chandelles (and Safety): “Cross-Coordination!””

  1. Basic flying techniques.
    Understanding the forces at play and practicing to achieve perfection makes pilots smooth and safe.
    As all Commercial pilots ought to be.

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