Powered Parachute Flying Handbook

Chapter 6 — Basic Flight Maneuvers

Attitude Flying

In a PPC, flying by attitude means visually establishing the aircraft’s attitude with reference to the natural horizon. [Figure 6-3] Attitude is the angular difference measured between an aircraft’s axis and the line of the Earth’s horizon. Pitch attitude is the angle formed by the longitudinal axis of the aircraft and the horizon. Bank attitude is the angle formed by the lateral axis with the horizon.

In attitude flying, the PPC pilot controls two components: pitch and bank.

• Pitch control is the control of the PPC about the lateral axis by using the throttle to raise and lower the nose in relation to the natural horizon.
• Bank control is control of the PPC about the longitudinal axis by use of the PPC steering controls to attain a desired bank angle in relation to the natural horizon.

Straight-and-Level Flight

It is impossible to emphasize too strongly the necessity for forming correct habits in flying straight and level. All other flight maneuvers are in essence a deviation from this fundamental flight maneuver. Perfection in straight-and-level flight will not come of itself. It is not uncommon to find a pilot whose basic flying ability consistently falls just short of minimum expected standards, and upon analyzing the reasons for the shortcomings to discover that the cause is the inability to properly fly straight and level.

Straight-and-level flight is flight in which a constant heading and altitude are maintained. It is accomplished by making immediate and measured corrections for deviations in direction and altitude from unintentional slight turns, descents, and climbs. Level flight, at first, is a matter of consciously fixing the relationship of the position of some portion of the PPC, used as a reference point, with the horizon. In establishing the reference points, place the PPC in the desired position and select a reference point. No two pilots see this relationship exactly the same. The references will depend on where the pilot is sitting, the pilot’s height (whether short or tall), and the pilot’s manner of sitting. It is, therefore, important that during the fixing of this relationship, you sit in a normal manner; otherwise the points will not be the same when the normal position is resumed.

In learning to control the aircraft in level flight, it is important to use only slight control movements, just enough to produce the desired result. Pilots need to associate the apparent movement of the references with the forces which produce it. In this way, you can develop the ability to regulate the change desired in the aircraft’s attitude by the amount and direction of forces applied to the controls.

The pitch attitude for level flight (constant altitude) is usually obtained by selecting some portion of the aircraft’s nose as a reference point, and then keeping that point in a fixed position relative to the horizon. [Figure 6-4] Using the principles of attitude flying, that position should be cross-checked occasionally against the altimeter (if so equipped) to determine whether or not the pitch attitude is correct. If altitude is being gained or lost, the pitch attitude should be readjusted in relation to the horizon and then the altimeter rechecked to determine if altitude is now being maintained. The application of increasing and decreasing throttle is used to control this attitude.

In all normal maneuvers, the term “increase the pitch attitude” implies raising the nose in relation to the horizon (by increasing power); the term “decreasing the pitch attitude” means lowering the nose (by decreas- ing power). While foot controls do have an effect on altitude, they are not typically used as a control for flying straight and level. A PPC must be capable of maintaining altitude to tolerances using the controls as designed.

Anytime the wing is banked, even very slightly, the aircraft will turn. In a PPC the pilot has no useful reference to measure bank angle like an airplane or weight shift control aircraft where the wing tips are visible in relation to the horizon. The objective of straight-and-level flight is to detect small deviations from laterally level flight as soon as they occur, necessitating only small corrections. Reference to the magnetic compass or GPS, if so equipped, can be made to note any change in direction; however, the visual reference of a point on the horizon with a point on the aircraft such as the front wheel or instrument panel will typically be used for sport pilot training.

Continually observing the nose to align the heading should be avoided. The pilot must spend more time scanning for air traffic than focusing on heading. This helps divert the pilot’s attention from the aircraft’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.

Straight-and-level flight requires almost no application of control pressures if the aircraft is properly trimmed to fly straight and the air is smooth. Some PPCs will have a directional trim control which adjusts the tension in a control line to make it fly straight. Each PPC manufacturer has a unique design for their particular aircraft. The pilot must not form the habit of constantly moving the controls unnecessarily. You must learn to recognize when corrections are necessary, and then make a measured response. Tolerances necessary for passing the PPC practical test are ±10 degrees heading and ±100 feet altitude. Students may initially start to make corrections when tolerances are exceeded but should strive to initiate a correction before the tolerances are exceeded, such as starting correction before the tolerance is ±5 degreees heading and ±50 feet altitude.

Since the PPC does not have an elevator to control the pitch, immediate minor adjustments should be made while flying close to the ground. In flying a low approach (flying straight and level over the centerline of the runway at a low but specified distance from the ground), think of the throttle as the coarse and slow response altitude control, and application of both steering controls (flare) as the fine adjustments to altitude adjustment. Throttle has a slight delay between implementation and response in increasing altitude; flare relatively quickly increases altitude but can only hold altitude changes temporarily (about 2 seconds). This would be like applying flaps on an airplane if no elevator control was available.

While trying to maintain a constant altitude, especially when close to the ground, you can fly with about onethird flare. By holding a small flare, if you encounter downdrafts, you can immediately add a large portion of flare to lift you back to the desired altitude. If the PPC begins to climb, then you can reduce the amount of the flare to return to the desired altitude, until you can adjust your throttle position again.

Common errors in the performance of straight-andlevel flight are:

• Attempting to use improper reference points on the aircraft to establish attitude.
• Forgetting the location of preselected reference points on subsequent flights.
• Attempting to establish or correct aircraft attitude using flight instruments rather than outside visual reference.
• Overcontrol and lack of feel.
• Improper scanning and/or devoting insufficient time to outside visual reference.
• Fixation on the nose (pitch attitude) reference point.
• 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 PPC.

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