Learning Stick and Rudder Control, the Basic Skills

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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.

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NEPAL STOL mission Video