Your connection with the sky

Get yourself some rudder pedals!

CH Products pedalsBarry Schiff’s recent article (page 40 of the AOPA magazine Jan 2009 issue) titled ‘flat-footed flying’ had me thinking. Barry’s story is about a pilot who doesn’t use his feet, i.e. doesn’t use his rudder – in flight. As it turns out his instructors taught him not to.

Barry was pretty miffed with this, as I can imagine, but it happens more often, I can tell you. I too had an instructor once who told me I didn’t need to keep my feet on the rudder pedals/brakes ‘because the plane turns by itself’. It did too, indeed, but obviously less efficient than while keeping the ball centered, as is the norm.

The reason I am writing about it here, is – of course – my ‘link’ to flightsimming. As you will read repeatedly in future articles of mine there most certainly IS a place for flight simulation programs in actually getting people into the air. And it is not only me who is convinced of that, and I am not the only pilot using Flight Simulator for various tasks.

BUT, there always is a but, there are a few dangers lurking too. One of the most heard problems with people coming off a sim-only environment into a real cockpit is the heads-down attitude. Many people learn themselves to fly on the instruments when simming. Having most of the tiny (but growing) monitor space filled with part of the instrument panel and the almost total lack of peripheral vision and feeling sort of forces budding (sim)pilots into this behavior. The advent of ‘virtual cockpit’ in FS2004 has somewhat improved the situation, but still.

One of the OTHER much found problems is what connected my thoughts of simming to Barry’s article: many Flight Simulator users buy the box, install the software on their (gaming?) PC and start flying… one way or other. In the old days – that’s a couple years ago only – most ‘gamers’ would have a joystick. Nowadays many do NOT even have that rudimentary bit of flight simulator hardware. Instead they are used to gaming with their mouse, or, yikes, a gamepad!

Well, let me tell you, there are no aircraft YET that are controlled with a gamepad. Most likely the one you will find yourself in for your first flight(s) will have a yoke (sort of a strange steering wheel that looks as if the designer ran out of material halfway down the design process). Or a ‘stick’.

And ALL will have rudder pedals!

So here’s the thing for you (would-be) flightsimmers: if you are SERIOUS about learning (about) flying, then get yourself some serious peripherals. That means a yoke or a joystick AND rudder pedals. And then learn to use them properly… at your desk. Good ones to start with are CH Products' pedals or Saitek's pedals, available anywhere on the Internet and probably somewhere near you as well.

That way we don’t have to embarrass Barry anymore in future !

8 Responses to “Get yourself some rudder pedals!”

  1. Good post and good points.

    Most pilots I've met are derisive of my flight simulation hobby. I agree, flight simulation is not flying; The most intense and immersive flight simulator experience I've ever had was only half the pleasure and excitement of simply taxiing a real aircraft.

    However, I will never fly an F-16, nor a 737-700. I may never even fly a twin. Flight simulation allows me to explore those experiences.

    More importantly, I can tell you I would never have pursued my PP if not for the enjoyment of simming.

    (... and yes, my CFI did chew me out repeatedly about underutilization of rudder input. I even have a nice set of CH Pro Pedals.)

  2. I agree with you about needing to buy rudder pedals and a yoke to help develop appropriate skills that will transfer from a FS environment to the real world but I don't understand why it is considered a bad thing to approach flying from a heads-down attitude. Going through NTSB reports shows how many pilots get in trouble because they are VFR only and inadvertently find themselves in IFR conditions or get in spin situations because they trust their senses more than their instruments. Wouldn't building a habit of greater reliance on instruments in a flight simulator be a benefit to help reduce pilot error in real world conditions?

  3. The first thing I was shown when I started instrument flying is how your senses will get you into trouble. I'm all for getting VFR only pilots more instrument time, but not if this translates into increased heads-down time during a VFR flight.

    This simulator training could also give a VFR pilot a false sense of security, leading them into conditions they may not be equipped to deal with.

  4. Sanjeev,

    But the question still remains - why is it better not to focus on your instruments in VFR?

  5. Wing and a Whim Says:
    January 14th, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Why not stare at the instruments in VFR?

    1. Seeing and Avoiding Traffic. When you are VFR, the responsibility to see and avoid other things in the sky rests solely with the pilot - be they other planes, birds, clouds, mountains, cell phone antennas, power lines... In fact, even when flying IFR, if you're in VFR weather, you still have a responsibility to see and avoid.

    2. Seeing the world. Seriously, the view is incredible. You'll see sights out there that are beautiful enough to bring tears to your eyes.

    3. Learning to feel and fly the plane. Flying, especially landing, is a kinesthetic art, like martial arts - no matter how many times I give a text description of how to perform a proper punch, or tell you to click the mouse on the proper target, nothing really teaches you how to throw a proper punch except throwing punches in a training environment. Racing games on the computer don't teach you how to stay in the center of the lane when driving long distances on a highway, or how to feel whether the road is slick with rain or black ice, and how to judge at what speed to take a turn.

    We don't start teaching students to fight blindfolded in martial arts until we've taught them the basic stances and forms; similarly, we don't start teaching flight by instruments alone until you have experience with taking off, landing, and judging airplane performance by the sight, sound, and visual cues. Even when my inner ear is lying to me upon entering a cloud, I still rely on the sound of the engines, the wind over airframe, the amount of control response on the yoke, to tell me things about the airplane - and then, when I break out of the clouds above my destination, the challenge has just begun.

  6. Nice work! I’ll have to do a cross post on this one ;)

  7. Wow! You too had an instructor that told you not to use the pedals? I'm not surprised, this is extremely common now a days and it's pretty disappointing when you truly think how people aren't trained correctly from the start.


    Lets Go Flying » Blog Archive » Get yourself some rudder pedals!

Leave a Reply