He also reminded me not to rely on the airspeed indicator as a stall indi-
cator—especially in a slip. Excessive angle of attack causes airplanes to stall,
Airspeed indicators lag slightly in normal flight, but in a slip they’re even less
accurate because the pitot tube is no longer pointed straight into the slipstream. It’s
angled up (because of the aircraft’s attitude) and to the side (because of the slip).
Moral of the lesson: Don’t rely on the airspeed indicator; instead, fly by
This discussion inspired yet another challenge—could I do an entire flight
without a single peek to the airspeed indicator?
Since few instruments can be seen easily from the back seat, learning to use visual cues, such as the horizon,
can help establish proper attitudes for various stages of flight. From the perspective of the author, note how
the horizon during climb-out (top photo) is near the first bolt on the windscreen; during cruise (bottom
photo) it’s near the second bolt.
This challenge would again take me past my
comfort zone, but the safety of my slips depended
on knowing I could confidently fly by attitude.
AT TITUDE FLYING
We strapped the Cub on and taxied out for
another flight. As I opened the throttle, Joe
placed his hand over the airspeed indicator, not to
be seen again for the rest of the flight.
I began memorizing where the horizon was on
the windscreen at particular power settings for
various stages of flight.
At full power on climb-out, the horizon was
just below the first bolt on the side of the windscreen. Throttling back to level cruise put the
horizon just above the second bolt. Throttling back
a bit more, the horizon needed to be just above that
first bolt again to produce a descent in the neighborhood of 500 feet per minute.
These visual guides will vary plane to plane,
pilot to pilot, even day to day if atmospheric con-
ditions change, so you’ll want to establish your
own “settings” in your plane.
The wingtips were another attitude indicator.
To maintain straight and level flight, the wingtip
needed to be slightly nose down compared to the
horizon. I subconsciously kept leveling the wingtips to the horizon, resulting in a slight climb.
I could also hear the wind noise increase when
I was getting fast and felt a slight mushiness
when getting slow.
During my first approach, I kept nervously
asking Joe, “We all right on speed?”
“Yep,” he replied without even peeking under
his hand. His internal airspeed indicator had
already been calibrated.
A dozen or so landings later, I was making
landings with confidence, not having a clue what
the airspeed indicator said, and amazingly, I no
It was extremely liberating to know I could
make a successful flight without seeing a single
Another victory. Another challenge met.
Another ounce of confidence as an aviator.
After all, that’s what flying is about.
Brady Lane, EAA 808095, multimedia journalist for EAA and
a private pilot, is building a Bearhawk from plans with his
friend Caleb Ihrig. Visit www.SportAviation.org for a link to his blog
where you can watch live video from the shop every Tuesday evening.
Contact Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org.