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Stop letting students chase the Airspeed Indicator

I am currently teaching a flying instructor rating to a young CPL. He is a good guy, works hard and has an infectious enthusiasm for anything aviation.

But he like the majority of the new pilots I fly with has a tendency to chase the ASI instead of focusing on maintaining the correct attitude for the desired performance. He doesn't do that anymore because on most of our early lessons I covered up the ASI with a post it note.

The first time we did an approach and landing with no airspeed he was totally freaked out, something I found rather discouraging in a CPL licensed pilot.

IMO the biggest problem with flight training today is insufficient emphasis is placed on attaining and maintaining the correct attitude for the desired performance. The best way to teach this is to permanently cover the AI and DI for all presolo lessons and to cover and cover the ASI and Altimeter at the beginning of each basic manoever ( ie St and Lvl, Climbs/Descents, turns) uncovering the instrument after the correct attitude and power is set and the aircraft has been given some time to settle down.

Wine, Women, and Airplanes = Happy

AF 447 springs to mind. Some training today seems to bypass the basics; attitude/power for speed for instance! And anyway, it's so much easier to fly a light aeroplane accurately by looking out the window rather than by chasing instrument indications! And it has the added advantage that you might see any conflicting traffic!

Barton is my spiritual home.

I have just finished the FI-training and flying by attitude was a big deal, not only when it comes to speeds in the pattern, but using the natural horizon instead of instruments for pretty much all airwork. But since I do that anyway, I didn't have these problems at all (start flying gliders at young age helps, though). Our Club school teaches stabilized approaches anyway and have a correct attitude is part of that, including partial panel training without ASI. It has been reported, that many pilots who tend to chase the needle would be surprising accurate, once they don't see the ASI. But that is second hand wisdom.

I have read about a glider club in the Eifel, where the new glider student starts his education with no panel at all. Then adding one instrument at a time. But I doubt that this would be suitable for powered airplanes, except the Cub or Champ or those nice old planes without windows they used to train in. Gliders do tell more about your attitude than the usual C150.


Aufwind GmbH
EKPB, Germany

I did some training on the Cirrus a few years ago and noted students had a tenancy to over pitch the nose on take-off with the possibility of a tail strike. I encountered the same thing in a Garmin 1000 equipped 182. Careful observation showed that all these pilots were taking off glued to the glass display and pitched to 15 degrees rather than a typical 7 degrees.

Getting them to look out of the window and pitch to "climb attitude" solved the problem but it appeared this was a new concept to them. Most had quite a number of hours flying other aeroplanes.

I pick up far too many students trained by other instructors who are all chasing dials rather than selecting an attitude and waiting for things to stabilise. Typically, all such students had been rushed into the circuit with inadequate time spent on the basic exercises.

As a current student can I echo the thinking here. For a number of reasons it has taken me a long time so far and I have had 4 main instructors. Until the most recent the phrase "check your airspeed" was a constant refrain from the instructor, as a result I had seriously got in the habit of flying to the numbers rather than flying to the attitude. My most recent instructor, who undertook her primary training in Holland, has spent the last few lessons with her map covering instruments and this does result in my flying being significantly more accurate with respect to maintaining heading and level. my previous instructors were definitely doing the job as part of the career path to airlines and I guess their focus was on flying for that end rather than for GA which was no doubt transmitted to students like myself.


I think it is more useful to teach a student to trim for a target airspeed.

Judging the aircraft attitude by looking out over the cowling will work but only in extreme cases and only if you know the plane very well.

Maintaining airspeed is a key skill in flying and is key to avoiding stall/spin accidents.

If we had angle of attack (AoA) indicators, that would be different, but we don't...

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Until the most recent the phrase "check your airspeed" was a constant refrain from the instructor,

When flying Straight an Level the scan is:




When you get to "I" you check your airspeed and the ball, its part of the sequence, if the speed is wrong, you make minor adjustments to Attitude and WAIT! The time taken looking at the instruments is no more than it takes to read the time!

I think it is more useful to teach a student to trim for a target airspeed.

No, you trim an Attitude not a Speed

If we had angle of attack (AoA) indicators, that would be different, but we don't...

Peter, how hard would it be to concoct such a device, with the sensors that are commonly available today? Probably hard to get certified, but even in your certified plane I should think it must only be certified if permanently installed, so a panelmount would be acceptable?

Generally: as a beginner microlight pilot, I must plead guilty to the vice of flying by the ASI. I do fly my own plane, so I am supposed to know it well, and have every occasion to get better acquainted with it... What can I do do improve my habits? Mark the horizon on the windshield for cruise, circuit, and other speeds, and make them into a habit?

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

so a panelmount would be acceptable?

It needs to have the airflow going over it, so I can't see any way to do a temporary solution.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

so a panelmount would be acceptable?

Since you need to measure airflow, I cannot see how this could be done without a permanent installation.

FAA and AOPA push the installation of AoA sensors quite hard:

Even EASA's Carl Thomas talked about AoA sensors in his Friedrichshafen talk.

I'm not so convinced, though.

LSZK, Switzerland
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