Learning Stick and Rudder Control, the Basic Skills

To master the “basic” skill of Stick and Rudder Control is the foundation of learning to operate the aircraft. Learning these physical skills is done through the following 3 stages:

  1. Raw coordination
  2. Fine coordination
  3. Automation (acting sub conscientious).

This is well known as it is the same stages as we are going through when learning to drive a bike or a car. With practice and experience, we just act right in a situation without thinking about it.

The above is academically known as psychomotor learning which is the relationship between cognitive functions and physical movement. Psychomotor learning is demonstrated by physical skills such as movement, coordination, manipulation, dexterity, grace, strength, speed; actions which demonstrate the fine motor skills such as use of precision instruments or tools.

Behavioral examples include driving a car, throwing a ball, and playing a musical instrument. In psychomotor learning research, attention is given to the learning of coordinated activity involving the arms, hands, fingers, and feet, while verbal processes are not emphasized.

Stages of psychomotor development:

When learning psychomotor skills, individuals progress through the cognitive stages, the associative stage, and the autonomic stage. The cognitive stage is marked by awkward slow and choppy movements that the learner tries to control. The learner has to think about each movement before attempting it. In the associative stage, the learner spends less time thinking about every detail, however, the movements are still not a permanent part of the brain. In the autonomic stage, the learner can refine the skill through practice, but no longer needs to think about the movement.


When learning it is of vital importance that it is done right from the beginning. It is hence of vital importance that one don´t rush and accept wrong behavior in the learning process. For instance, when one learns straight and level flight one must look for proper understanding and behavior, i.e. how deviations from height or heading is corrected, rather than emphasize on the desired limitations.

Remember the definition of straight and level flight: «Straight and level flight is a continuous series of corrections of deviations from desired level and heading.»

Insisting on the desired limitations of heading and altitude deviations, rather than proper technique to correct the deviations might lead to wrong behavior. The well known “”Chinese Flying”, also know as “Wun Wing Lo(w)” might be the result. It is to use a light rudder pressure to maintain the heading, which leads to a low wing and hence the aircraft are not straight. If that is accepted, you have to de-learn and re-learn the proper behavior from the start. Remember that “The Shortcut is Longer!”

What is of vital importance when learning the basic maneuvering skills is to feel the aircraft and the controls. One should emphasize that the stick and rudders are controlled with light pressures rather than movements of hands and feet. The student is might be “stiffening” using the muscles to such an extent that there is no feeling only movements of the controls.

Airmanship is the Ability to Fulfill the Objectives of the Flight

Airmanship is the Ability to Fulfill the Objectives of the Flight. This definition came to my mind after the previous blog.

In Commercial aviation the objectives are prioritized as mentioned: 1. Safety, 2. On time, 3. Onboard Service. As mentioned this is the priority of most commercial airlines. Other civil transport might change the priority order of 2 and 3.

In military aviation in a war the priority might be as above or it might be as follows: To Succeed in the Mission (1), In the safest way possible (2).

Airmanship another definition

The various flying activities and their purposes are different and hence the priorities are different. For instance, civil public transport of persons, versus a military mission in a war. In civil public transport safety is the first priority, thereafter other priorities like being on time and customers comfort. This priority ranking is written in most airline manuals. In a war the mission objective might be more important than the pilot´s safety. The Japanese Kamikaze missions during World War 2 is a grotesque sample of that.  But it is fair to say that many military deployments are base on the “Mission first” priority. This is as it is, and hence acceptable.

But is this acceptable and necessary in sport or leisure aviation? I have seen deliberate risk taking of Kamikaze proportions. People have died before they were properly airborne or they have fallen from the sky separated from the aircraft or still in it when it was no longer airworthy. This has of course not been deliberate but rather a consequence of ignorance, mostly due too lack of understanding the risk involved or simply a mistake is done. This also happens due to deliberately ignoring the operational limitations, flying an un-airworthy aircraft, lack of emergency equipment or lack of skill and/or will. I have discussed this in 2 previous blogs:

The Safety Goals: “Zero» or “As Low as Reasonable Practicable”?

Taking a Risk, is that a human right?

Airmanship in the above context could be defined as follows: Airmanship is the ability to fulfill the objectives of the flight. If these objectives are clear, in prioritized order and promulgated we have a good foundation on how Good Airmanship is to be advocated and performed in the various Aviation segments.

As mentioned in Civil Commercial Aviation it would be:

1. Safety, 2. On Time, 3. Other customer services (comfort, food, drinks, etc.).

Note in a private or executive flight comfort could be number 2 and On Time number 3. In sport aviation there are risk takers who justify their dangerous behavior by claiming they are focusing on the experience and not so much on the risk. They would advocate that it is their life at stage and hence nobody´s business but their own. Is it so? I don´t think so as discussed in the previous blog article “Taking a Risk, is that a human right?»

The Nepal STOL Mission Video Has Taken Off

The Nepal STOL mission video has been launched. It is a 1:05 hour video which shows Twin Otter Flying in Nepal like it´s never shown before. It´s all from the mid eighties when all the STOL ports where “dirt” strips (gravel and grass). We served the Nepali people flying the UN Twin Otter operated by ICAO.

Most people have of course heard about Lukla, which rated as the Worlds Most Dangerous Airport. You will see spectacular take-offs and landings, also with a cockpit view. There are however other airports which also are worth visiting. Every airport will have a story to tell with it´s breathtaking view, the people and the culture. We have already presented a teaser from Manang, which is situated in the Himalayas.

There will be more great shots of the spectacular view and the Manang people. Dolpa is another high altitude airport with rough surroundings. Simikot close to the Tibetan border,  is a remote high altitude airport with spectacular flying surroundings and people. We´ll also see Jiri, Nepalgunj, Dhangadi, Jomsom, Jumla, Bajura and Phaplu. Phaplu is interesting, as it is the only airport where we take-offs and were done uphill.

Besides the Twin Otter we have some flying performance magic by a Pilatus Porter.  A quick Pilatus visit to Syanboche, close to Everest Base Camp is included! We hope you are looking forward to it!

The mission was to assist the national and international aid organizations with their projects. We transported people, equipment, food, etc. to the remote areas.  We also assisted the NCAA in training their staff in flight operations, maintenance and management.

In 1987 we did a series of tests to officially certify the operations. We got assistance by Capt. Frank Black, a Canadian Twin Otter Expert. This is well documented in the video.

I think the video prove that we all can agree that Airmanship is the Will and Skill to Safely Operate an Aircraft.

Note: To purchase or rent the video, you must register a free Vimeo account. If you already have an account, you can just log in.

See the front page, or: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/thenepalstolmission

You will also find a 3 min. free teaser on the front page and on Vimeo. The full video is 1:05 hour long and as mentioned above, full of breathtaking flying and it also shows the Land and the people we served. Enjoy!



Straight and Level Flight, what is it really

The common definition of straight and level flight is: “Flight at a desired flight level and heading”. That sounds right? But is it really? In fact a better definition is: «Straight and level flight is a continuous series of corrections of deviations from desired level and heading.»

To master this “basic” skill is the foundation of the pilot´s skill and must be understood and mastered properly. As previously mentioned we learn physical skills through 3 stages: Raw coordination – Fine coordination and Automatic action. The latter is well known when we learn to drive a bike or a car, with experience we just act right in a situation without thinking about it.


The Safety Goals: Zero or As Low as Reasonable Practicable

The safety goal has the later years been to reduce risk «as low as reasonably practicable».  Earlier it has been understood to be Zero (Nil), which some experts still subscribe to. I had the same thought until I understood that it is a misconception. The mix is that it is interpreted to replace the safety goal, which is zero accidents. This is not the same. Of course every flight done should have a goal of a safe return to mother earth. However, there will always be risks involved, which should be handled. Risk that can lead to an accident should not be accepted. They should either be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level. The vision of an accident free aviation World should still be the leading star. We might never reach that, but the journey towards that goal must be with tools and equipment to achieve it. That is risk management which is guided by the «As Low As Reasonably Practicable» philosophy. After all we cannot eliminate all potential risks in any human activities including aviation.

Taking a Risk, is that a human right?

There are different views on risks, their acceptance and how they are handled. I subscribe to the right to take a calculated risk simply because risk is always a part of any physical activity. The right to take a calculated risk has one absolute requirement, which is how to calculate and mitigate it! If you don´t you are just taking a blindfolded risk, which is extremely dangerous in any aviation activity. This is proven from the very beginning of aviation. Too many people have died or been seriously injured. It´s enough already. If you don´t accept that there are risks involved or you don´t know how to calculate and mitigate risks in aviation you should stay on the ground.

If risks are mitigated properly the greatest risk in most aviation activities will be the road trip to or from the airport or flying site. Hence the benchmark for the risk level, might be the possible outcome of a road trip in a “drive-worthy” car or a bike when you follow the rules and stay within the speed limits. In fact, most aviation activities are safer than that, if good airmanship which always include risk assessments, is performed.

Today we have aviation sports which are categorized as extreme sports which is “cool» to be a part of. The justification is the adrenaline kicks and nothing more. I find it disturbing when the culture in some activities say that they are not focused on the risk but rather on the experience, the “kicks”. The fact is that they are “turning the blind eye» to what can cause great harm or even lost lives. Some claims that this is a personal matter only. Is it?

When somebody get´s hurt or die, it affects other people, especially family but also friends and the society. It is financial cost involved as hospital bills has to be paid and death or permanent disabilities will change, not only the life of the injured, but the whole family. A rescue mission is never cheap either. I have heard people say that the Search and Rescue teams like the risk involved in a rescue operation, they need the training, etc. That is not so, they do their job because it´s their job. They do not enjoy any part of it because it is risky. Their satisfaction lies in rescuing someone, saving lives and reducing harm. Apart from the immense cost involved in a rescue operation, any high risk activity involves other people and their safety as well. I have seen enough grief and sadness after accidents and death and it is always horrible, and only that.

Let´s talk about reducing risk to an acceptable level in the context of being a loyal to family and friends and a responsible citizen. This forum welcomes a discussion.

Note: This item replace 2 previous blog post addressing the same subject.