| Home | Privacy | Contact |

Airplane Flying Handbook
Basic Flight Maneuvers
Straight and Level Flight

| First | Previous | Next | Last |

Airplane Flying Handbook


Table of Contents

Chapter 1,Introduction to Flight Training
Chapter 2,Ground Operations
Chapter 3,Basic Flight Maneuvers
Chapter 4, Slow Flight, Stalls, and Spins
Chapter 5, Takeoff and Departure Climbs
Chapter 6, Ground Reference Maneuvers
Chapter 7, Airport Traffic Patterns
Chapter 8, Approaches and Landings
Chapter 9, Performance Maneuvers
Chapter 10, Night Operations
Chapter 11,Transition to Complex Airplanes
Chapter 12, Transition to Multiengine Airplanes
Chapter 13,Transition to Tailwheel Airplanes
Chapter 14, Transition to Turbo-propeller Powered Airplanes
Chapter 15,Transition to Jet Powered Airplanes
Chapter 16,Emergency Procedures



Continually observing the wingtips has advantages
other than being the only positive check for leveling the
wings. It also helps divert the pilot's attention from the
airplane's nose, prevents a fixed stare, and automatically
expands the pilot's area of vision by increasing the range
necessary for the pilot's vision to cover. In practicing
straight-and-level-flight, the wingtips can be used not
only for establishing the airplane's laterally level attitude
or bank, but to a lesser degree, its pitch attitude.
This is noted only for assistance in learning straight-and level
flight, and is not a recommended practice in normal

The scope of a student's vision is also very important,
for if it is obscured the student will tend to look out to
one side continually (usually the left) and consequently
lean that way. This not only gives the student a biased
angle from which to judge, but also causes the student
to exert unconscious pressure on the controls in that
direction, which results in dragging a wing.

With the wings approximately level, it is possible to
maintain straight flight by simply exerting the necessary
forces on the rudder in the desired direction.
However, the instructor should point out that the
practice of using rudder alone is not correct and may
make precise control of the airplane difficult.
Straight–and-level flight requires almost no application
of control pressures if the airplane is properly
trimmed and the air is smooth. For that reason, the
student must not form the habit of constantly moving
the controls unnecessarily. The student must learn to
recognize when corrections are necessary, and then to
make a measured response easily and naturally.

To obtain the proper conception of the forces
required on the rudder during straight-and-level flight,
the airplane must be held level. One of the
most common faults of beginning students is the
tendency to concentrate on the nose of the airplane
and attempting to hold the wings level by observing
the curvature of the nose cowling. With this method,
the reference line is very short and the deviation,
particularly if very slight, can go unnoticed. Also, a
very small deviation from level, by this short reference
line, becomes considerable at the wingtips and
results in an appreciable dragging of one wing. This
attitude requires the use of additional rudder to
maintain straight flight, giving a false conception of
neutral control forces. The habit of dragging one
wing, and compensating with rudder pressure, if
allowed to develop is particularly hard to break, and
if not corrected will result in considerable difficulty
in mastering other flight maneuvers.

For all practical purposes, the airspeed will remain constant
in straight-and-level flight with a constant power
setting. Practice of intentional airspeed changes, by
increasing or decreasing the power, will provide an
excellent means of developing proficiency in maintaining
straight-and-level flight at various speeds.

Significant changes in airspeed will, of course, require
considerable changes in pitch attitude and pitch trim to
maintain altitude. Pronounced changes in pitch attitude
and trim will also be necessary as the flaps and landing
gear are operated.

Common errors in the performance of straight-and-level
flight are:

• Attempting to use improper reference points on
the airplane to establish attitude.
• Forgetting the location of preselected reference
points on subsequent flights.
• Attempting to establish or correct airplane attitude
using flight instruments rather than outside visual
• Attempting to maintain direction using only rudder
• Habitually flying with one wing low.
• "Chasing" the flight instruments rather than
adhering to the principles of attitude flying.
• Too tight a grip on the flight controls resulting in
overcontrol and lack of feel.
• Pushing or pulling on the flight controls rather
than exerting pressure against the airstream.
• Improper scanning and/or devoting insufficient
time to outside visual reference. (Head in the
• Fixation on the nose (pitch attitude) reference
• Unnecessary or inappropriate control inputs.
• Failure to make timely and measured control
inputs when deviations from straight-and-level
flight are detected.
• Inadequate attention to sensory inputs in developing
feel for the airplane.

The airplane is designed so that the primary flight
controls (rudder, aileron, and elevator) are streamlined
with the nonmovable airplane surfaces when
the airplane is cruising straight-and-level at normal
weight and loading. If the airplane is flying out of
that basic balanced condition, one or more of the
control surfaces is going to have to be held out of its
streamlined position by continuous control input.
The use of trim tabs relieves the pilot of this requirement.
Proper trim technique is a very important and
often overlooked basic flying skill. An improperly
trimmed airplane requires constant control pressures,
produces pilot tension and fatigue, distracts the pilot
from scanning, and contributes to abrupt and erratic
airplane attitude control.