Flight Simulator Co-Pilot

by Charles Gulick

Straight and Level

Eagle Field Training Base (Local)

North: 17405. East: 7433. Altitude: 2000. Pitch: 0. Bank: 0.
Heading: 45. Airspeed: Cessna 114. Airspeed: Piper 122.
Throttle: Cessna 20479. Throttle: Piper 21463.
Rudder: 32767. Ailerons: 32767. Flaps: 0.
Elevators: Cessna 32767. Elevators: Piper 36863.
Time: 10:00. Season: 2. Clouds: 0.
Surface Wind: 4 kn., 270 deg.

Whenever I refer to “straight and level,” this is what I mean.

Look at all your instruments, and register what they're telling you. Out the windshield, notice how Eagle Field directly ahead of you becomes three-dimensional when you get close in. Flying Piper, you'll have just a last-minute glimpse of the hangar at the east end of Runway 27, because you're slightly nose high. In Cessna, you'll see the whole airport.

Your KIAS (Knots Indicated Airspeed) in Cessna is 104 nominal, but your actual airspeed is 114. It's important to remember this instrument discrepancy. You can regularly add eight to ten knots to the indicated airspeed in Cessna, and you'll have a more accurate figure. Your KIAS in Piper reads the correct value: 122 knots.

The artificial horizon exactly depicts your attitude in relation to the earth and sky. You are flying absolutely level in Cessna, which you can confirm by looking out all sides of the aircraft; the horizon is straight. In Piper, the nose of the airplane is pitched slightly up. (If you look out the right side from Piper, you'll see the slight apparent slant of the horizon, due to your nose-up configuration. This is perfectly normal.)

The altimeter confirms what we already know: steady at 2000 feet.

The VSI (Vertical Speed Indicator) reconfirms that you're neither climbing nor descending; gaining no altitude, losing none. Straight and level. (Note that frequently the VSI needle in Piper gets stuck at about 100 feet up. So you need more than this instrument to tell you that you're straight and level—for instance, a static altimeter indication.)

The heading indicator agrees with your compass: 45 degrees.

The turn coordinator shows your wings level: no bank, hence no turn.

Look at your RPM indication: 1905 in Cessna, 1950 in Piper. This power setting is what's required to cruise straight and level, at this altitude, on this particular spring day, with your elevators trimmed for operational neutral—32767 in Cessna, 36863 in Piper.

To find or confirm, now or anytime, operational neutral in Cessna, temporarily apply one notch of forward pressure on the elevator. If it moves down from dead center, you were at operational neutral before you applied the notch of down pressure. So take off the notch and you're at neutral.

Piper's indication of operational neutral is when the elevator-position indicator sits just above the center mark but still touches it. If you give one notch of up trim and the position indicator moves up, you were at operational neutral before you applied the notch. Take it off and you return to neutral.

If you saved the flight parameters, press Recall to refly this demonstration until it feels as comfortable as an old pair of shoes. You'll spend more time in this configuration—straight and level—than in any other through all your flying. And, as easy as it looks, many students have more trouble flying like this than they do drawing beautiful sine waves all over the sky.

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