The day that Albert Einstein most feared may have finally arrived, stated the email with photos of people at the beach, in a car, out to eat, all playing with their cell phones or other electronic devises instead of interacting with their environment of other people. "I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots," Einstein said.
Commercial airlines are now training their pilots to hand fly at lower altitudes and re-learning to not type instructions into the aircraft's computer. Emergency landing training for a power failure for our training airplanes is not to go to the GPS to find the nearest airport but to fly the plane with the sequence of airspeed, wind direction, and a place to land. What about stick and rudder skills and our awareness and attention to our environment and flying the plane?
Let's look at an hour of dual instruction from the back seat of my Citabria. The back seat is the "office" of the Certified Flight Instructor in that airplane due to the requirement of the student to solo from the front seat. We may find some useful insight in our observation. Before we get into the plane there will be a briefing for spin training, basic aerobatics, and tail-wheel training that will go like this:
"Your landing may be good but since you have only flown tri-cycle gear airplanes you will probably forget to hold the control stick in your lap during the landing. All three wheels should touch down at the same time. In the back seat I will be aft of the center of gravity so I will be able to detect the slightest of any uncoordinated turns. Remember the C.G. is aft of the main wheels on landing and has a longer arm, or distance, to use as a force to keep you on your toes during the landing roll. During aerobatics you will probably lose your orientation to the horizon. Knowing where the horizon is at all times is essential to maintaining control of the airplane. During spins you will find it easier to exit and recover than to enter the spin. If you relax back pressure the plane will not stay stalled and will enter a spiral. With the spiral you will have an increase of airspeed and if not recovered the increased speed may make the wings come off of the plane! Okay, let's go fly!"
Level at 3,000 feet the aerobatic placard is consulted for an entry speed for the loop. The nose of the plane is lowered and at 140 mph back stick is applied bring the nose of the plane up through the horizon until earth disappears with only the blue of sky seen through the windshield. The roar of the engine is just below red line on the RPMs and the force of 2 G's push us down into the seats. Soon the brown and green of ground reappears in the windshield. The student recognizes "home" and heads straight down in a vertical dive toward the ground! Power off, stick pulled slowly back, find the horizon, and the loop has been salvaged into safe straight and level flight. Our briefing about never losing sight of the horizon was forgotten.
Next is a one turn spin. Power off, stick back in your lap, stall, full left rudder, and the horizon drops away as once again the brown and green of earth start to rotate. Feeling uncomfortable the student relaxes a slight amount of back pressure on the stick. I watch as airspeed rapidly increased and G force rapidly builds! Power off, right stick and rudder out of the left descending turn, now back to the horizon and the spin is correctly changed from a spiral to a correct recovery ... showing 4G's on the instrument in front of the student!
A few more practice tries with the spin and loop bring success along with a loop connected to a half roll to form a Cuban Eight. Proud of our success and a glance at my watch shows that we have been up for 45 minutes. "Let's head back to the airport and try a few landings., Remember the stick is in your lap for tail wheel steering."
"No problem" came the student's reply with his confidence at mastering the loop and roll.
Final approach looks good. The plane feels solid near the ground in ground affect. I watch as the control stick in the back seat slowly mirrors the student's control stick movement in the front seat. The wheels gently kiss the pavement of the runway as my student turns around to look at me in the back seat.
"How was that?" "Great!" came my reply as he turned around to look out of the windshield and the tiny white runway lights at the edge of the pavement leading the way to the large hanger that now filled the windshield! Back pressure on the control stick was relaxed causing the tail wheel to lift off of the ground accompanying the apparent loss of tail wheel steering! Right rudder is called for to get us back on the pavement along with the command to "Hold the stick back!" The plane was once again under control.
Wow! a loop, spin, roll, Cuban Eight, and landings that required expert directional control until the plane has ended flight and been tied down! In our world of instant gratification, a world of GPS, auto-pilot linked to a computer, tri-cycle landing gear airplanes with a small distance between the nose wheel and main landing gear giving less of a twisting moment than that long space between main gear and tail wheel, and the technology that makes common things like having to fly an airplane a thing of the past Einstein may have hit on something. He may not be correct about "the world will have a generation of idiots," but he may be spot on when he stated: "I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction."
Rob Mixon is a Certified Flight Instructor with Airline Transport Pilot Rating. His 20,000 hours of flight time include MES, MEL, SEL, and Glider ratings. He was awarded FSDO Miami Flight Instructor of the Year and has also achieved the Wright Brothers Award for 50 years of accident free flying. Learn more at www.betterpilot.com.