Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Slippery when high.

One of the things I’ve seemed to mention quite a bit now that I’m a “proper pilot” is that no one teaches you how to manage passengers.

I’m slowly figuring this out, mostly courtesy of very willing and understanding friends, who understand that I’m using them as Guinea pigs as much as they are using me to get a free flight!

For example, K was happy to tell me that the engine failing to start on the first crank was scary, now I warn people. M walked into the wing, now I mention this to people that they need to watch their heads. A was a good example of how some people don’t really want to know the technical details of everything you are doing and just wanted to sit back and enjoy the ride, reminding me that you need to tailor your “spiel” for each individual.

Well my latest victim passenger was E from work. E is awesome in many ways but I’m particularly proud of the fact that she quit smoking and has been cigarette free for a year now. That deserves a reward. A flying reward.

As usual I took this opportunity to hone my passenger management skills! I think I did OK. E certainly enjoyed the flight and didn’t seem unduly concerned.

Until we got to the last part, setting up for the landing. I’d gotten a straight in approach for 26, the winds were a little challenging at around 10 or so knots and pretty much a full crosswind. Looking back I realised that I let myself get lulled by the 10 knots and neglected to figure that none of that was in fact a headwind component. To put it bluntly, we were at full flaps and not coming down nearly soon enough.

I’d already briefed my passenger on the possibility of a go around (neglecting to mention that my teeth were firmly clenched against winds that were at the top end of my comfort zone) but I wanted to try and at least attempt a landing and I was already compensating for a crosswind, so I set up for a nice into the wind slip.

It did the job, silently congratulating myself for controlling my airspeed and not diving to the runway like I had a previous tendency to. We got down in one piece (more in another post!) and eventually headed off in search of food.

I asked E for her honest feedback in terms of if there was anything I should have mentioned or that came as a surprise to her.

Her response surprised me a little bit, she said something along the lines of “yeah, when we were landing, well just before that in the descent bit, you did something and it felt like the plane stopped moving. That was weird”

Initially I had no clue what she was talking about. When I powered back to idle maybe? A little bit of quizzing from me finally revealed the truth. She was talking about when I set up the slip.
Hmm interesting. Now that she’s mentioned it I have read that passengers don’t seem to like the physical sensation of slipping. I’ve never given it a second thought.

In fact the whole subject of “slipping” seems to be a tad controversial in some arenas.  I’ve mentioned before that I read flying forums from the UK, States and get the odd bit of kiwi fun thrown in as well. As well as some discussion about what you are actually talking about with a “Side slip” vs “forward slip” vs “slipping turn” .

This thread here makes for some interesting reading.

I will admit that up until that flight I’d never considered the slip manoeuvre to be anything more than a useful tool for when you’ve overcooked your approach somewhat. I wouldn’t have managed to pass my PPL without resorting to this during my less than stellar forced approach.

Either way I didn’t appreciate the physical sensation in gives your passengers. I guess it’s a little bit like the driver never getting carsick, that kind of thing.

For those of you who don’t fly the above paragraphs make no sense to you whatsoever, the short version is. I did something funky to the plane to compensate for a poorly planned descent and it made E feel a bit weird.

The good news is that she survived and is even happy to go flying with me again.

The even better news is that this epic post seems to have broken my writers block and I’m back in the blogiverse!


  1. My 2c on slipping. It's a perfectly safe maneuver if taught and used properly, with particular attention given to maintaining the proper airspeed. The problem with cross controlled maneuvers is that you alter the amount of lift being generated by the wings. If one wing stalls you will flick roll the aircraft inverted, not the thing to be doing at 200' AGL.

    1. I think we are pretty much on the same page, I'm confident using slipping as a tool when needed. Of course in this situation I should have planned my approach better so that I didn't need to do it in the first place.

      I didn't realise just how much it can freak out passengers though. I think I'll save it as a tool for when I'm solo or at least it is another pilot on board.

      I want people to enjoy flying with me , not scar them for life!

  2. Its all about communicating your intentions to your passengers and explaining things might seem a little weird but its a perfectly normal maneuver. Having said that if it was a real emergency you do what you gotta do and if you don't get the chance to say anything other than "hang on" then a few moments of apprehension and fear on their part is superior to death.

    1. no arguments here. I guess I just didn't realise that "slips felt weird".
      to me it doesn't feel any weirder than being in a small plane in the first place!