Light Touch Flying

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by dmccormack, May 2, 2008.

  1. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Anyone else stressing light touch on the yoke and how do you teach it?

    I demonstrate using only one finger on the side of the yoke, and then insist the student fly with only thumb and forefinger, but too soon the death grip returns.

    Thoughts and ideas?
     
  2. KennyFlys

    KennyFlys Guest

    I've been seeing the "death grip" quite a lot the last two weeks. All you can do is remind them as well as demonstrate how easy it is to control with such a light touch. I did find one person who claimed it was uncomfortable for their fingers to hold it that way. We'll see how that works out.

    I think more often than not, the plane is out of trim so they feel like they have to hold more grip to control the pressure. So, perhaps watch the grip and apparent movement of the yoke. Remind trimming for pressure. I'm doing that as much as reminding for airspeed and altitude.
     
  3. Maxmosbey

    Maxmosbey Final Approach

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    I need to get serious.
    I think that most of the time it just goes away on it's own. That isn't to say the the instructor shouldn't remind the student to lighten up a little when he or she sees the student with the death grip on the yoke, but the death grip is an indication of the student's overall stress level. If I were an instructor, which I am not, and if I saw the student had the death grip on the yoke, I would try to get the student to take a deep breath. I think that trying to get the student to fly with two fingers doesn't do anything to help the student learn to cope with the stress. What it does is teach the student to fly with two fingers while the rest of his body is tighter than a bow string. Like I said, I'm not an instructor, but I have been on the death grip end of the situation a few times. In my case, if I can get myself to calm down and breath a little, the grip gets better without having to think about it.
     
  4. poadeleted20

    poadeleted20 Deleted

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    I stress it, and the only way to make it stick is to watch the trainee's knuckles and harp on them every time they start choking the yoke. Also, point out what it was that told you they were clamping down, like attitude excursions against trim -- they'll start to correlate the symptoms with the disease and catch themselves. BTW, I teach three fingers, not two, on yokes (thumb and index/middle fingers) -- seems to work better than two.
     
  5. skyflyer8

    skyflyer8 Line Up and Wait

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    Ditto to all of the above. The underlying issue is stress/fear, so whatever you can do to reduce that for the student will help with the death grip issue. On my very first lesson with people I show them how the airplane will fly hands-off and be stable (when trimmed), so this proves to them that a light touch on the yoke doesn't mean we'll fall out of the sky. When I see white knuckles, I not only remind them what we learned about hands-off flying, but try to figure out exactly what is making them nervous and remedy the problem.
     
  6. Maxmosbey

    Maxmosbey Final Approach

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    I need to get serious.
    That is a very good approach. Whenever I catch myself tightening up, I take my hands off of the yoke and wipe them on my pant legs or crack my knuckles. Then I take a nice light touch on the yoke, and start flying the plane again.
     
  7. Maxmosbey

    Maxmosbey Final Approach

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    I need to get serious.
    If I had an instructor try to solve the problem like that, I would fire him and get another one.
     
  8. Rob Schaffer

    Rob Schaffer Cleared for Takeoff

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    As a student (3/4 complete) I find that I am fairly light on the yoke most of the time.

    The other night, I had a hard grip on the yoke again for some reason after doing a few landings. My landings were good, but after the last T/O, I didn't trim properly after leveling off, and it just didn't click.

    My instructor asked who was winning, the plane or me, since I had a hard grip on the controls. She kindly reminded me to trim the plane and relax, remember to check everything once a cruise or manouver is complete, and get the plane flying itself again.

    As an initial student, I was white-knuckled a few times, especially when I felt behind the airplane.
     
  9. Ticket puncher

    Ticket puncher Filing Flight Plan

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    When I was teaching I taught thumb, index, middle finger. Some tried to crush the yoke longer than others but by the time we got through some hood work it had almost disappeared. Just takes time, confidence and positive reinforcement. Since it is normal at first, if you interject some humor into the issue and let them know that it is normal they tend to relax sooner with the airplane and also around the instructor. As I learned after some hours of instructing the stress that students often feel is many times unknowingly instructor induced. I think my first few hours I was more concerned about doing something wrong in front of the instructor than I was anything else.

    I tried the pencil technique only once. When we landed he had painful grooves in his fingers but while airborne was oblivious to the discomfort. I never tried it again!!
     
  10. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Thanks so much for all the good comments above.

    I think the pencil technique is another technique that may or may not be warranted, depending on the student, the situation, your relationship -- all the stuff an instructor should think about before selecting a particular remedial method for a particular student.

    But I think most student pilots are thinking "I gotta keep this thing flying!" and so the yoke cannot be released or we all shall perish in a nasty, painful way.

    So the hands off demo, the two finger demo, or the bump it back in place demo all have use -- again, depending on the student and situation.

    Ron -- I agree completely that the trim wheel needs to be mastered. I gently remind my charges that a "smooth pilot makes it look easy by relying on the assistance the airplane provides" -- and that trim is a primary helper and workload bearer.

    Of course anxiety is a factor as well, but I think often the anxiety is not the general tenseness caused by "Oh My Lord I'm FLYING!" but rather stage fright or even not understanding what can happen and why. Again, if I need to grasp the controls and keep this thing from plunging to the abyss -- you'd better believe I'm hanging on!!

    :hairraise::eek:

    As far as fear of the instructor's chastisement -- I think to some degree this is a healthy thing. Long after we punch a Ticket we can all remember an instructor's voice in our head telling us "Get that nose down!" or "Hold it off!" or "What altitude are flying today? 3400? 3600? 3550?"

    ;)

    If we had no anxiety we may miss a (not the only, but at least one) motivator to learn and improve.

    Again, thanks for all the comments!!
     
  11. maddog52

    maddog52 Line Up and Wait

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    I've used relaxation techniques and the pencil technique on students but "show me your hands and wiggle your toes" seems to work for most students. Very few need the pencil but I agree one session is usually all it takes. I also try to impress on them that trimming should become second nature and a well trimmed airplane greatly decreases workload in stressful situations like unusual approaches and engine out scenarious. I teach them:
    Airspeed = Life
    Trim = Airspeed
    Trim = Life
     
  12. Baron 55

    Baron 55 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I remind the student to relax. Sometimes, I have him or her release the yoke, place their hands in their laps and fly with rudder for a few moments. We fly here in an area with frequent turbulence [as in, most of the time it seems] and higher winds. So it is quite understandable that the death grip can appear. It does not take much to convince a student that the plane can fly along pretty well on it's own if trimmed.

    When they don't believe me, I ask them to turn the plane over to me for a minute or two, and I discuss something such as trim or whatever to get them thinking about something else so I can say a few minutes later, "Where are my hands?" which are not on the yoke, as I'm flying with rudder. They usually get the point right off. And they cannot argue that I am more experienced and etc., because I'm not doing anything but talking.
     
    Last edited: May 3, 2008
  13. nddons

    nddons Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I'm not a CFI, but I learned in a Symphony, which had a stick and felt a lot more responsive than a yoke. Consequently, I would be wagging my wings and oscilating in pitch on short final as if I was fighting a strong crosswind even if one didn't exist. I finally learned that the only way to fly with a light touch on the stick was to ensure I was properly trimmed, and being on proper speed on final. I found I was approaching short final with too much speed (thinking I was being safe with a little more margin) when in fact too much speed would initiate a fight between me and the airplane when in the flare.
     
  14. skyflyer8

    skyflyer8 Line Up and Wait

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    Your trimmed airplane itself, that's who. Are you saying you never let go of your controls because you are afraid your plane will spiral to its demise, or what? When you let go, aren't you still "flying" the plane by paying attention to it? I don't see your point.

    According to you, we should shove a pencil between that person's fingers and they'll immediately let go, right?! Come on, this thread is more about flying with a tight grip on the yoke as a habit, not locking up on the controls in a panic as you describe above. The freezing/locking up on controls topic has been addressed in another thread. What's your answer to your own question? Post it in the other thread.
     
  15. Dean

    Dean Pattern Altitude

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  16. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Interesting observation.

    I've noticed a similar effect in the A36 Bonanza. Though it has fairly heavy control feel, the controls are sensitive. If you grip, you go up. If you lean over to change freqs, you turn. My technique in that airplane is to release the yoke whenever I am not consciously controlling because I'm tending to some other chore.

    You may be able to get away with a bit more grip in a slightly sloppier control airplane (such as a worn out 152/172).
     
  17. Greg Bockelman

    Greg Bockelman Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Thanks for saying what I wanted to. :yes:
     
  18. skyflyer8

    skyflyer8 Line Up and Wait

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    Yeah, and I usually get myself in trouble.

    LOL at the shock collar thing, too!
     
  19. KennyFlys

    KennyFlys Guest

    Twice today, two separate students...

    "Are we trimmed for pressure?

    "I think so."

    "Let's take our hands off and see what happens?"

    A couple times, they were and a couple times they were not trimmed. Letting them handle their own demonstration will be a good teacher and the results will stay with them.

    Later, I had a 17yo kid for his first lesson. He was trimming for pressure right off the bat but just needed to see the demonstration a couple times to see how much it might take and feel the difference between a slight pressure and no pressure. And after that... great command of the airplane for his first lesson. He'll be a joy to teach.
     
  20. jpflys

    jpflys Pre-takeoff checklist

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    My instructor only made me wear the shock collar on my first solo, he used to slap me when we were dual !
     
  21. KennyFlys

    KennyFlys Guest

    Hmmmmm.....

    [​IMG]
     
  22. Lance F

    Lance F En-Route PoA Supporter

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    I'll take that bet in the plane I'm flying now, so I would not recommend teaching this technique. I have found out the hard (embarrasing) way lately that you should put the airplane where YOU want it with the yoke and then trim out the pressure. In a faster/heavier airplane you will chase wherever you're going forever by trying to fly with the trim.
     
  23. Dean

    Dean Pattern Altitude

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    I agree Lance, if you keep making little adjustments with the trim wheel, thats all your going to get done the entire flight.
     
  24. Everskyward

    Everskyward Experimenter

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    I think the airplane that Lance is referring to doesn't have a trim wheel. :)
     
  25. KennyFlys

    KennyFlys Guest

    Agreed!

    I have a seventeen-year-old student is trimming for pressure pretty well on his second lesson. If this is a sign of things to come... he's gonna be a pleasure to teach.
     
  26. Lance F

    Lance F En-Route PoA Supporter

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    Very true. (but I wish it did.)
     
  27. Skyhawk4754

    Skyhawk4754 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Dan

    My .02 worth...... If you take a half a step back and re-read this entire thread, it becomes very clear to me which CFI I would like to fly with. A student needs to believe in his CFI and his CFI needs to build the confidence in the student. The pencil thing is "old school"..... ever notice whats on one end of a pencil ....and eraser...it's for people who make mistakes, that's why I like them. Mine, I keep behind my ear until I have something important to remember.
     
  28. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Well, you reinforce my point in a follow up thread that the CFI needs to know his/her student and use techniques and methods applicable to the student.

    First, just because something is "old school" doesn't make it invalid. I'm sure students in the late 40s heard "Right rudder!" growled at them as much as I did in 2002.

    Conversely, a "new school" approach that never corrects or pretends all is happiness and sunshine leads down the primrose path to certain -- yet wholly unexpected -- disaster.

    Bottom line: A CFI is a teacher, and a good teacher has the people skills to know when to nudge, when to let go, and when to quietly ask "What exactly are we doing?"
     
  29. KennyFlys

    KennyFlys Guest

    To a point, mistakes are a good teacher. Obviously, don't let something become dangerous or careless. Last night, I flew a XC with a student just on VORs. The first half of the flight, he tended to over-correct for drift; ten degrees or more. I got him to make "small corrections" for only half-scale or less errors; five degrees or less. Obviously, that worked much better for him.

    Last week, I let a student drift thirty miles from his intended destination from fifty miles out. We get some strong winds off the gulf at times and there's no better opportunity to learn how they affect you and the importance of wind correction angles. Then, we had a discussion on what we could have done differently as well as lost procedures. This was a good lesson for him as in his mind he already has his private pilot certificate. We've got more learning to do and he determines that on his own rather than feeling like I'm trying to hold him back.
     
  30. Skyhawk4754

    Skyhawk4754 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    By "old school" I meant using "pain to teach"
     
  31. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    We were doing VOR tracking last night also!

    The promised High pressure finally came in and swept away the morning's clouds -- a perfect afternoon to fly. It's sticking around today and hopefully through tomorrow.

    Gotta love the big H.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2008
  32. KennyFlys

    KennyFlys Guest

    We had it good the last couple days. It ain't around today...

    [​IMG]
     
  33. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Well....

    There are a few uncomfortable things we do in flying that teach.

    For example, the cross-control stall demonstration isn't comfortable for most students, but it teaches "this is not good and I don't want to do this so I will avoid doing that." (Some will love it and you just shove them over to the local aerobatics instructor).

    :rollercoaster:
    So is the power-on stall with little or no left-turning tendency correction (also usually results in a spin).

    So is flying into clouds.

    (Off thread Aside BEGIN)

    My intent is to not send a PP candidate on to the practical until I've taken him up at least once in actual so he/she can feel the disorientation and think "I didn't like that feeling -- I'm going to avoid that until I know how to fly on instruments."

    I think FAR too many students these days have spent time in front a of a flight sim where the panel is primary and figure "I fly 'on instruments' all the time-- it's no big deal..." These need to experience flight in the clouds before they will believe that they will lose control.

    (Off thread Aside END)

    Pain inflicted by shackles and pungee sticks has no place in flight training, of course (unless you're going after a very niche market).
    :eek:

    Flight training is all about expanding envelopes. The good teacher knows when the student is ready to push out that edge a bit more, and when it's at the limit.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2008
  34. Skyhawk4754

    Skyhawk4754 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    roger on the spins.....i have a grass strip out on my farm, and last night, just after I ate 2 peices of pizza, a friend showed up in a Citabria GCBC, I was doing fine after a couple of barrel rolls but then we did a high att. 3 1/2 turn spin......didn't loose the pizza but thought best to get my feet back on the ground for awhile. It was fun though. I think he is getting me ready for a ride in the T6............
     
  35. nosehair

    nosehair Cleared for Takeoff

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    barny, your pencil method is just another tool in the instructor's bag-o'-tricks. Don't pay any attention to anybody who says "If my instructor tried that, I'd fire him."

    I have no use for students who think of me as an "employee".

    No instructor is an "Employee."

    Is your Doctor an Employee?

    Because you pay him to teach or take care of you does not give you the right or privilege to tell him how to do his job.

    Sure, it is a free country and you can find and treat flight instructors like hired hands, but that's what you get - a hired hand, not a real instructor.

    Yes, you do have to insure that the instructor is a good instructor, but once it is determined that he is a good instructor, then you should commit to doing what he says and not trying to find fault in any little thing you don't like.

    Learning to fly and command an airplane is dangerous, and like a hot stove, sometimes it takes a level of discomfort to insure the proper physical response.

    If you can't take the heat - stay outta the kitchen.:D