Unusual Attitudes

In which I learn how to deal with unusual attitudes and attempt to fly S&L with my eyes closed.


The plan for today’s mission was to learn how to deal with unusual attitudes.

I arrived, preflighted 4964 and we headed off, taking off from 18R.

We headed out to the training area and then J took control to demonstrate a few high nose attitudes.

A high nose attitude occurs when the nose is, well, high. The airspeed is decreasing and often there might be some bank as well. It can occur at full power or part power.

To recover from a high nose attitude, you first have to lower the nose to S&L attitude, add power (if full power isn’t already applied), then roll the wings level. You can roll the wings level as you push forward to lower the nose.

J demonstrated a few then said it was time for me to try. He told me to close my eyes, then he’d fly around a bit to disorient me, then put the plane into a high nose attitude and tell me to open my eyes, take control and recover.

We did 3 or 4 of these, a couple at full power and a couple at partial power. It was fairly easy to get the hang of recovering from them.

We then moved onto to trying recovery from a low nose attitude. These generally occur from something like a badly executed steep turn, where the nose is allowed to drop (such as doing a steep turn around your house, getting distracted by ‘hey cool that’s my house down there’ and not holding the attitude). The nose is pointing towards the ground, the horizon is moving up the windscreen and the airspeed in increasing rapidly.

To recover, the first thing you do is reduce power so you don’t exceed Vne (the never exceed speed) which in the Jab is 140kts. You then roll it level and AFTER rolling it, then raise the nose to the climb position. Once the nose is into the climb position, add power and climb back to a safe height. One thing to remember with recovering from a low nose attitude is that you DON’T roll and raise the nose at the same time, you must roll then raise the nose. This is to ensure that you don’t overstress the airframe (you don’t want to recover just to have the wings fall off). You might need to add a bit of foward pressure on the stick while rolling to make sure that the nose doesn’t come up with the increasing airspeed.

J demonstrated a few of those, then it was time for me to have a try. We did it the same way as with high nose attitudes, with me closing my eyes then having to open them and recover.

The first time I tried it, I rolled and raised the nose a bit together so I needed to make sure that I consciously did one then the other. We did it about 4 or so more times. One thing I need to do is to be most positive in reducing power when recovering, to make sure we don’t go over 140kts.

J then explained why we do unusual attitudes. As I’m doing a RA-Aus Certificate (at the moment anyway), you don’t do any Instrument Flight (IF) (where you fly solely by reference to the instruments). So if you fly into a cloud, you will have no idea how to deal with it. The point of doing unusual attitudes is so that if you fly into a cloud then manage to get yourself out again, you can attempt to save yourself from whatever stupid attitude you end up in. However, the big rule here is DON’T FLY INTO CLOUDS. There was a study done in the US where people with no IF training were placed in a flight simulator and told to fly solely by reference to instruments (simulating flying into a cloud). The average time until they crashed was around 120 seconds – so about 2 minutes from entering the cloud to crashing. This is largely because, when you fly, you rely primarily on your eyes to tell you what’s happening, backed up by your ears and other senses. So if you take your eyesight away (like in cloud) then it’s hard to rely on what the instruments are telling you and believe that over what your body is telling you (which is most likely wrong).

To give me an indication of just how disorienting it is to fly into cloud, J told to me close my eyes and try to fly S&L. It felt VERY weird, to try and fly simply based on what my body was telling me, without even instruments to cross reference with. J asked me a few times ‘Do you think you’re flying S&L now?’ and I was just like ‘I think so?’ As I did it for longer, more doubt crept in which tempted me to make more control inputs.

It turns out that about 4 seconds after I closed my eyes, I put the aircraft into a 15 degree bank turn and we flew a full circle and ended up pointing the same way we started, with a slightly nose high attitude. So it seems that if I ever fly into a cloud, I’ll just fly in circles inside my cloud! 😛 (Disclaimer: don’t worry, I have no intention to ever fly inside a cloud unless I’m doing an IF rating).

I’m very glad we did the unusual attitudes lesson, I feel a lot more confident about my ability to save myself if I do something stupid like mess up a steep turn. I hope I never have to use what I’ve learnt today, but I’m definitely glad I’ve learnt it!

By then it was getting rather hazy and heading towards getting dark, so we headed back to the field. I played a round of ‘find the airfield’ and only managed to see it after J pointed it out (sigh). We joined crosswind on 18 (I don’t think I’ve ever joined the circuit for 18 before actually) and flew the circuit. I have to admit, the landing really wasn’t that crash hot. At all. It was a fairly hard touchdown and for some reason which I still can’t fathom, I let the backpressure off way too soon. I couldn’t believe I’d done something that stupid. I was a bit disappointed because I thought after last lesson that my landings had improved, but today’s landing really wasn’t too good.

We taxiied back, parked, and headed in. I’ve booked in to do my BAK (Basic Aeronautical Knowledge) theory test next Saturday, I’ve been putting it off for a year so I need to set a deadline or I’ll keep putting it off. I’ve set myself the goal of learning all of the BAK in a week…hopefully I haven’t been too ambitious!

Earlier this week I got a new phone, a smartphone. I installed an app (Google MyTracks) which uses the GPS function in the phone to track your path. I turned it on at the start of my lesson and it tracked our path around the training area.

I think I’m going to have quite a lot of fun with that app! 🙂

Next lesson we’re probably going to do another session of circuits, just to polish them up. Then after that (assuming I pass my BAK that is!), hopefully we’ll be doing a pre-licence lesson where we see how I go putting everything together in one mission.


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