Better Aerodynamics Knowledge Means Better Flying Ability
Updated: Feb 16
Everyone can (and should) strive to improve their aerodynamics and physics knowledge that relates to flying. I have trained many pilots who needed a “tune-up” in this knowledge area. In general, This subject apparently is often not given the attention it deserves. All pilots have room for improvement, and a thorough understanding of some (mostly) basic aerodynamics concepts, put in the proper context, will enable pilots with additional knowledge and tools to fly better and safer.
A lack of aerodynamics knowledge has been, regularly observed by DPEs I have spoken to, suggesting the subject likely needs to be taught better during primary training, and beyond. Long ago I realized that the better one understands certain aerodynamics & physics concepts, the better they can fly (manually control the airplane). This statement especially relates to emergency maneuvering where correct and efficient maneuvering may mean the difference between life or death.
One of the many great benefits of Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT) with SAW is the highly increased understanding of those key aerodynamic concepts that are discussed, then applied, so the pilot in training can correlate theory with practical application. Studying a concept on the ground followed by practical application of the concept is where the some of the highest levels of learning take place. This is a common method of flight training, but the teaching and/or learning is often incomplete. All too often, pilots get themselves in trouble due to lack of understanding what the consequences of their actions are.
The fix is simple. Improve your knowledge along and how to apply that to proper actions. Sometimes this can be done by self-discovery, sometimes learning occurs through experience. The quickest way to learn the application of aerodynamic concepts is with good instruction. An example is learning to fly a tailwheel airplane. Some concepts learned are momentum management, using AoA effects on landings, gyroscopic precession, Newton’s third law of motion, patience, finesse, and more. These concepts may be learned in any airplane, but they are amplified in tailwheel airplanes, which will help pilots fly any airplane.
A simpler example is the lift and drag curves. How well do you know them? There is a whole bevy of questions that can be asked about the lift and drag curves and what actions change your position on the lift curve or how the airplane is affected by various points on the curve.
All airplane pilots need to be concerned with Loss of Control - Inflight (LOC-I), as it is the number one cause of death in airplanes. Better knowledge and training are key to reducing these mishaps. I urge all pilots to consider this and do what you can to continually improve. Getting some UPRT is highly recommended. In the meantime, brush up on your aerodynamics knowledge and see if you can figure out how to apply that knowledge to better, and safer, flying.
I have created a document titled “Understanding the Lift and Drag Curves” that breaks down sections of the curves with some relevant questions. Hopefully this is a good review and useful for instructors teaching the subject. This document can be found at: mikekloch.com/home/advanced-airplane-learning/aerodynamics/
-Mike “Cuckoo” Kloch