Section 9, Lesson 1
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Slow Flight

Slow Flight

Slow Flight is a maneuver which solidifies pilots’ stick and rudder skills. It is absolutely necessary that pilots be able to perform slow flight well, as the skills gained translate direct to skill in takeoffs and landings.

Lesson Notes

During slow flight, the airplane is slowed down, reconfigured and held at a speed just above stall (technically an AOA just above stall). Once in slow flight, the pilot will make turns, climbs and descents to improve rudder coordination and intuitive understanding of the relationship between speed, power, AOA, and use of flight controls.

And that’s really the key: intuition. Good pilots don’t just know the concept or learn how to execute it well enough for a test. They drill it to build the muscle memory necessary to ingrain that knowledge. That slow flight is the maneuver, probably more than any other, which help us do that.

During slow flight, you will probably notice a few things are different:

  • The flight controls are sluggish: This is because there is a lack of airflow across them.
  • Adverse yaw is magnified. This is because the ailerons must move further at lower airspeeds, and hence they produce proportionally more drag. You will want to (1) make turns slowly and (2) practice using the rudder to maintain wings level/a specific bank. If you don’t have good rudder discipline, slow flight will make it fairly obvious. That’s good!
  • The airplane has a tendency to over bank: This is because it lacks the same stability that it has with increased airflow during normal operation.
  • A climb requires a large power input: The aircraft configuration and high AOA generates a lot of drag. If we only pitch up in slow flight we will stall, not climb.
  • A descent requires very little power: To descend and still hold a low speed, we maintain a high AOA, with the nose mostly level, but at a lower-than-normal power setting.

Again, the focus of Slow Flight is generating the correct muscle memory. Don’t try to race through this maneuver… give it the time and patience it deserves and you will be a better pilot for it.

Additional Resources

Flashcard Questions

Why are flight controls sluggish in slow flight?

Why does the airplane tend to over bank in slow flight?

Why is adverse yaw increased in slow flight? How do we compensate?

What (generally speaking) power settings are typically required for climbs? Descents?

Why is so much power required to maintain level flight in slow flight when the same altitude could be maintained with far less power in normal cruise?

In general terms, what is your AOA in slow flight? High, moderate, low?