Flying Straight and Level

Now that you are in the air, the next step is to ensure that you continue flying straight and level. In straight and level flight, you maintain the same heading and altitude.

Straight flight can be defined as “not turning”.

Level flight can be defined as “holding altitude” in which you are not climbing or descending.

There are essentially four fundamentals of flight in which everything an airplane does is one of the following four:

  • Climbs
  • Turns
  • Descents
  • Straight and Level Flying

Cruising is associated with straight and level flying and just like any other task there is a checklist for cruising once you have reached your desired altitude.

2300 RPM is the most common cruise power setting for a lot of light airplanes, however generally, cruise power will be set anywhere between 2100 -2700 RPM.

At this point, your elevator trim control should be adjusted and set.

Mixture control should be lean as appropriate.

Landing light should be off as appropriate.

From Climb to Straight and Level Flying

The next step is to level off which maintains a consistent altitude and  heading. The first step is to set the pitch of the airplane first by placing the nose near the horizon.

Some helpful tips to use for leveling off are as follows:

    • start the transition from a climb attitude to a straight and level attitude at about 10% of the vertical speed, so if you are leveling off from a 500 feet per minute climb, start using the nose down to the level flight position approximately 50 feet before the altitude you want to level off at.
    • wait for the speed to build up to approximately cruise speed
    • reduce the power to the desired RPM setting which is approximately 2200-2300 RPM for cruise speed.
    • adjust trim as needed.
    • Lean the mixture as appropriate
APT – Power Management

Attitude – adjust the attitude for the desired airspeed using the control wheel and let the airspeed come to its target airspeed

Power – Se the power to the recommended setting or whatever power is required.

Trim – Set the aircraft trim for greater efficiency, more comfort for passengers and easier on the pilot since it will be essentially hands-off flight.

Getting the Trim Set

The aircraft should be first flown with primary controls then the trim is used to receive pressure from the controls. First, set the pitch attitude for level flight and then set the trim, keeping in mind that if the nose wanders up or down, the nose will need to be reset with the control wheel and the the trim set until desired.

Flying Straight and Level

There are a few key things you can do to ensure the aircraft stays on a straight and level flight path. First you should pick a point on the horizon to focus as your horizon point. Not too close or you will reach the point and have to choose another point. Once you have picked your point, ensure that the aircraft continues headed towards that point by making small left or right turns as necessary. You will want to also ensure that the wing its are the same distance from that point both left and right and ensure that the wings remain level.

Holding Altitude

Just as you picked a point in the horizon previously, you will point the nose at a position on the horizon and use something on the aircraft such as the cowling, angle of the bottom of the wings to the horizon etc.., as a reference point.

Check the attitude indicator to confirm and ansi check the altimeter to ensure you are not climbing or descending. You will want to visually memorize this visual image and while keeping your focus outside the cockpit, make sure the angle of the right and left wing tips are consistent.

Making Corrections

Corrections the need to be made in flight should be done so in small amounts to ensure that the flight remains straight and level.

Stability

Generally, small aircraft are designed to be stable in pitch and the aircraft should always return to its original state & if the control wheel gets bumped, it will return to the pitch attitude that it was originally trimmed for.

The Tail and Nose work opposite up & down.

Pitch Up – More Raises

Pitch Down – Nose Lowers

Eventually, after a couple of oscillations, the aircraft will return to straight and level which is called “stability” and you should be able to fly a well trimmed airplane “hands off” briefly and maintain heading by simply using the rudder pedals.