Straight and Level Flight
Reference: FS2002 Ground School Text, FS9 Flying Lessons

The ability to fly straight and level is very fundamental and hard if you don’t know how. You might be thinking you can simply use the auto-pilot and be done with it. Sure you can and you will use the auto-pilot for the cruise portion of most flights so why bother learning how to flying by hand?

Well there are a couple of reasons…

First, suppose your auto-pilot fails while in flight, what then, discontinue your flight? No way a die hard Simmer would carry on flying by hand or on manual. Ok, you’re thinking but this is a simulation my auto-pilot will never fail. Perhaps, but there will be cases when you foul up the setting or controls and the aircraft isn’t doing what you want. One sure way to recover from this is to disable the auto-pilot and fly by hand.

You will not always land at an airport or be directed to a runway if you fly online that has an ILS designation. You must be able to control your aircraft manually and land. This is not part of this lesson but what you will learn here will greatly help you control your aircraft.

Finally, for sheer fun. There is a certain satisfaction to being able to hand-fly any aircraft, large or small, prop or turbo-jet while staying straight and level. You should and will use the auto-pilot, especially while learning but, there will come a time when you want a greater challenge and hand-flying can be extremely rewarding.

For now, we just want you to understand the principles and be somewhat competent with the technique.

Homework assignment: Read Class 1: How the Airplane Remains Airborne [Straight-and-Level Flight] in the Ground School Text. (FS2002) or Lesson 1: Straight and Level Flight (FS2004)

Practically speaking, in Flight Simulator flying straight is fairly easy. Some aircraft tend to roll slightly to the left and this can sometimes cured with aileron and rudder trim or just make minor periodic adjustments with the yoke or joystick. Flying level is another matter. It is essential to use elevator trim to maintain level flight. It is also very helpful to use trim during climbs and descents as well. In fact, you can trim an aircraft in any attitude such that it will fly itself, hands-off.

Here’s the trick to level flight…

Technique: You must use a combination of power (or thrust if a jet) and trim to achieve stable level flight. As you reach your cruise altitude, start moving the trim toward the direction that allows you to relive pressure on the flight controls (tip: map two thumb buttons on your yoke or joystick to elevator trim; one button for up and one for down). Allow the speed to stabilize. The need for trim will vary as long as airspeed is changing. Continue to adjust trim as speed stabilizes until altitude change is minimal with no pressure on the controls. At this point make very minor changes to the throttle, increase if sinking, decrease if climbing to achieve level flight. Use the Vertical Speed Indicator primarily and Altimeter secondarily to monitor level flight. Continue adjusting trim and throttle (make slight adjustments) until perfectly level flight is achieved. Once trimmed, you will need to make periodic adjustments, usually to the throttle only to remain level.

Practice flight one: Learn To Fly - Student Pilot - Lesson 1: Straight and Level Flight

For additional practice position your Cessna 182S at the Altair training Center (KLGB) and takeoff from runway of your choice and climb to about 3,500 feet. Practice the technique described.


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