March 2010 Issue

Flying The Ball

Part of understanding turning flight means knowing if what’s going on is a skid or slip. That’s what the smallest instrument in the panel is for.

A close friend e-mailed recently to inquire about what happens to the turn coordinator/turn and bank instrument’s ball in certain flight attitudes. After giving him what I thought was the answer he needed, several more e-mails ensued, each one raising my frustration level—admittedly not a difficult thing to do. Finally, I picked up the phone and called, and I’m glad I did, since his real question had very little to do with the ball. But his questions—and little bit of research I did to verify my understandings before responding—highlighted one thing: There probably are a large number of pilots out there who have forgotten exactly what the little ball does and how it does it. There’s also another number of pilots who never were taught these things correctly. Let’s try to fix both problems. First, though, let’s refresh our understanding of why and how an airplane turns.

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