Lazy Feet

Submitted by on Fri, 01.02.2013 - 00:00

Whadda ya mean I have “lazy feet”?

Pilots look at us funny when we make that comment.  They have probably heard us saying this before (I know I heard it a lot when I was in training!).  They understand the concept, but don’t know how we can tell just by seeing how the airplane flies.  So here are a few scenarios that can help you see if you have lazy feet or not.

First, let’s define what we mean by “lazy feet”:  it means you are not reacting to adverse yaw and keeping the airplane coordinated using rudder.  In other words, you are not using your feet enough:  "lazy feet".

Since most of us fly tricycle gear aircraft what are the main causes of adverse yaw for these planes?

  • Slipstream and torque: both give us yaw to the left when we add power, to the right when we reduce power
  • Asymmetric thrust: gives us yaw to the left when we pitch the nose up, and to the right when we pitch down.
  •  Aileron drag: a tendency to yaw to the left when we turn to the right, not so much to the right when we turn to the left (because of the two previous causes)

Most of us react quite correctly with right rudder while rolling for takeoff when we see the effect of slipstream as we add power.  How do we tell?  By looking outside and seeing the nose going to the left…  Can we anticipate it will happen, and use right rudder so the nose stays straight?  Sure and most of us have mastered that.

Next let’s see about asymmetric thrust.  I would propose that you do the following: sit outside the club and watch people take off for a while.  I bet you will notice that for many, if not most, aircraft the right wing will dip down as the airplane is climbing right after leaving the ground… 

What is happening there?  The pilot, looking outside as s/he should, sees the airplane going to the left and is correcting by banking to the right with ailerons.  What’s wrong with that?  Well, if you were in the airplane at that moment, you would see the ball going quite a bit to the right, meaning that the correct response to the left turn (yaw) would be right rudder.  Think of the situation here: you are taking off, so your airspeed is low; if you have a crosswind from the right, you might need to be turning into the wind to stay on runways centerline; in addition, you are uncoordinated.  Remember how you get into a spin?

Another asymmetric thrust situation: you are in the flare, coming in for a really slow touchdown: short field or soft field landing . As you are flaring, the aircraft yaws to the left.  Of course! You are pitching the nose up. How do you compensate?  Many don’t, so the airplane lands skewed to the left.  Others compensate with aileron rather than rudder.  So, again, why don’t weanticipate this and use rudder to keep the airplane straight on the runway centerline?

OK, how do we fix this?  Well, I don’t suggest doing experiments while taking off or landing, unless you are with an instructor.  However, you can test this at a safe altitude in the practice area.  First practise transitioning to a climb, making sure you keep the airplane straight using rudder.  Try to be conscious of whether your tendency is to use ailerons.  Remember that you are getting both slipstream and asymmetric thrust effect so you may need a lot of right rudder.

Then do the same thing in slow flight.  Practise transitioning to slow flight just using the correct rudder movements to keep the airplane straight, looking outside primarily and checking the Turn Coordinator ball every so often.  Finally, transition to a power off stall – imagine it as doing flare at a given safe altitude, say 3000 feet – and keep the nose straight using rudder.

I think you will find after these exercises, that you have become more conscious of the adverse yaw caused by asymmetric thrust, and will naturally anticipate and correct.  I am sure you can easily find an instructor who would be pleased to help you with these exercises.

Fly safe!

Jean René de Cotret

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Assistant CFI – Rockcliffe Flying Club


Update:PilotWorkshop.com has released a video related to this subject. You can watch it at http://pilotworkshop.com/airmanship/video