Just Fly the Airplane
Okay, Iím going to do a little story telling here but I promise to get to the point as soon as possible. There are times when someone or something makes an impression on you that sticks with you for the rest of your life. This is one of those stories.
It was a dark and stormy night. Forget that, actually it wasnít stormy, but it was around 2 a.m. and my flight instructor and I had flown to Wichita as part of my multiengine instruction in an old Aztec to get my rating, and we had been battling bad weather for most of the day on our return trip to Florida. We had to land a couple of times to wait out some serious looking thunderstorms, and for this reason we were not only arriving late but dog-tired to boot.
I had lowered the flaps and the landing gear and had three green lights, which told me the gear was down and locked. On final approach at probably 200 feet or so, I reached down to check the landing gear lever to make sure it had fully notched, at which time my instructor slapped my hand and told me to "quit that, just fly the damned airplane." His point being that we already had the three green lights and I had no business fiddling around on final approach. He was rightójust fly the airplane.
Iím lying a little here, he actually used a much harsher word, but I canít repeat it here. You can guess it.
In the following 25 years of flying, I kept remembering his words and I believe they saw me through some rough situations.
When you think about it, the advice can be applied to our modern day RC flying. Whether flying a glider, gasser, or a pylon racer, the point is that "just fly the airplane" is still good advice.
Youíre out flying your gas-powered Decathlon and you have a lot of wind and if you have some trees near you, you will have turbulence, your airplane is bouncing all over the sky, going up and down like an elevator and now youíre faced with making a landing. Whaddya do now? You guessed it, "just fly the damned airplane." And being the brave soul you are, you fly again, but this time, the wind shifts and you now have a 90į crosswind.
There are two basic methods for landing in a cross wind. The slickest way is to drop a wing into the wind and use opposite rudder to maintain a straight heading to the runway. Being the chicken soul that I am, I never learned to do that since it takes more coordination than I have, especially at my age. I simply crab the airplane enough to offset the wind and maintain my heading to the runway and then, just before I touch down, I straighten out.
Horrors, some will say. Well heck, it works for me and I havenít knocked a landing gear off yetómaybe from some bad landings, but not doing a crosswind landing at least.
Actually, if youíve seen some of videos of crosswind landing airliners make, they use the crab method so Iím not alone in this.
All right, you ask, whatís this got to do with "just fly the airplane?" Well, now that you ask, I think it has to do with a mindset. Whichever system you prefer cross-control or crabbing, forget about the wind, forget about the turbulence, just concentrate on flying the airplane, and the rest will take care of itself.
It is obvious that you should have mastered your flying to the point where things are more or less automatic and you no longer have to think about which way to push the sticks to raise a wing, but this comes with practice and time. And this leads to another point, which is flying instinctively. Let your instincts run free, for when you do, things become more automatic and you donít have stand there sweating over what to do next.
In other words, "just fly the damned airplane."