Instrument Flying: Behind the Basics

P + P = PP

Power + Pitch = Predictable Performance. That is how an old friend, mentor, and instructor puts it. We were speaking of it recently in relation to the AF447 crash.

But sometimes we don't even have attitude available. If, for example, we were to blunder into cloud in a J-3 Cub with only the most rudimentary instruments, we might still pull it out of the hat using the turn and bank: don't touch the power or trim; roll into a coordinated rate one turn and hold it for one minute. With luck we will have maintained level flight and turned 180 degrees. (Of course without attitude, altitude, or vertical speed available our nose has dropped slightly in the turn to maintain 1G flight and during the turn we have been in a gentle descent.)

The point of the formula is that control can be maintained in cloud with very little information. In the J-3 Cub example, the natural longitudinal stability of the airplane, the needle and ball, and a timepiece are almost sufficient.

But not quite! What is missing?

It is the pilot: specifically the pilot's brain with its ability to visualize and integrate. The visualization is often referred to as situational awareness and is recognized as an essential component of the instrument pilot's skills. The integration is equally essential and will be the subject of this mini-series: Behind the Basics.