Ground Reference Maneuvers - Introduction

Initial pilot training requires that a pilot understand the relationship of the various flight controls pressure inputs to the resulting attitudes of the airplane. This allows a pilot to develop a sense of feel and understand the various indications of airplane performance, such as pitch, roll, and yaw attitudes. With sufficient competency in this environment, the pilot is ready to apply these skills and place the airplane, not only in the correct attitude and power configuration, but also in orientation to specific ground-based references. These skills are the basis for traffic patterns, survey, photographic, sight-seeing, aerial application (crop dusting) and various other flight profiles requiring specific flightpaths referenced to points on the surface.

A pilot must develop the proper coordination, timing, and attention to accurately and safely maneuver the airplane with regard to the required attitudes and ground references. Ground reference maneuvers are the principle flight maneuvers that combine the four fundamentals (straight-and-level, turns, climbs, and descents) into a set of integrated skills that the pilot uses in their everyday flight activity. A pilot must develop the skills necessary to accurately control, through the effect and use of the flight controls, the flightpath of the airplane in relationship to the ground. From every takeoff to every landing, a pilot exercises these skills in controlling the airplane.

The pilot should be introduced by their instructor to ground reference maneuvers as soon as the pilot shows proficiency in the four fundamentals. Accomplishing the ground reference maneuvers requires that the pilot competently manipulate the flight controls without any undue attention to mechanical flight control inputs—the pilot applies the necessary flight control pressures to affect the airplane’s attitude and position by using the outside natural horizon and ground-based references with brief periods of scanning the flight instruments.

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