Flight by reference to instruments


The student should gain a working knowledge of instrument flight maneuvers and unusual attitude recovery, and understand the techniques and methods required for safe instrument flight.


  • Control-performance method
  • Primary/supporting method

    • Basic instrument flight maneuvers
    • straight and level
    • turns and airspeed changes
    • climbs and descents
  • Instrument steep turns
  • Recovery from unusual flight attitudes
  • Timed turns
  • Compass turns


Instructor actions

  • Discuss the lesson objective
  • Bring up the student’s private instrument reference training
  • Demonstrate flight maneuvers, with the model aircraft and flight simulator
  • Evaluate student’s learning by posing review questions throughout and correcting to 100%
  • Assign homework for next briefing

Student actions

  • Prepare for the briefing by reading Instrument Flying Handbook chapter 2
  • Practice flight maneuvers in flight simulator
  • Participate with discussion, taking notes throughout

Completion Standards

The lesson is complete when the student can demonstrate flight by reference to instruments in flight simulator with moderate instructor guidance. Throughout the lesson they should be able to demonstrate a general understanding of flight maneuvers by correctly answering a majority of the questions posed without significant instructor prompting.

Teaching outline

Control/performance method

  • Attitude and power control the airplane
  • Performance instruments show how the aircraft is working
  • Attitude + power = performance

Primary/supporting method

  • Three categories of instruments:

    • pitch
    • bank
    • power
  • Primary instruments for each category provide the most pertinent information

    • supported by additional instruments

Basic instrument flight maneuvers

  • straight and level

    • pitch, bank, and power relationship
    • trim and control usage
    • partial and full-panel
  • turns

    • TAS, bank angle, and standard rate relationship
    • constant rate, standard and half-standard
    • partial and full-panel
    • bank control during roll-in and -out
    • coordination just as important during IFR
  • airspeed changes

    • using VSI, trim, and altimeter
    • partial and full-panel
  • climbs and descents

    • constant airspeed vs constant rate
    • level-off techniques
    • entry procedures – power-fpm relationship
    • partial and full-panel
  • steep turns

    • cross-check even more important
    • coordination during roll-in, turn, and roll-out
    • precession of the attitude indicator
    • partial and full-panel
  • maintain altitudes ±100 feet, heading ±10°, airspeed ±10 knots, and bank ±5°
  • proper instrument crosscheck and interpretation
  • slow or improper crosscheck leads to poor situational awareness
  • abrupt control inputs and the need for smooth corrections while shooting approaches

    • trim
    • power

Recovery from unusual flight attitudes

  • understanding of recovery techniques
  • proper instrument crosscheck and interpretation

    • wrongly interpreting the instruments can worsen the situation
  • proper sequence of inputs to return to level flight

    • correctly identifying the upset attitude doesn’t help if the recovery is improper
  • full and partial panel recoveries

Timed and compass turns

Reference the Instrument Flying Handbook 5-24 and 5-25

  • Standard rate turn: 3°/sec

    • 45° in 15 seconds,
    • 90° in 30 seconds, etc.
  • Stopwatch or clock + turn coordinator

    • use the ‘cardinal’ points on the clock – 3, 6, 9, 12
    • clock substitutes for the heading indicator
    • reference a spare CDI – each numbered radial is 10 seconds of turn
  • Compass operating errors and characteristics

    • UNOS

      • undershoot north: when turning northerly, roll out when the compass indicates around 30° before the desired heading
      • overshoot south: when turning southerly, roll out when the compass indicates around 30° past the desired heading
      • in the southern hemisphere, reverse the corrections
    • ANDS (on east/west headings)

      • accelerate north: when we accelerate, the compass will indicate towards the north

        • decelerate south: when we decelerate, the compass will indicate towards the south
        • due to the inertia of the weighted end of the compass
    • calibration procedures
    • importance of proper timing and trim

Compass tips (IFH)

  1. If you are on a northerly heading and you start a turn to the east or west, the compass indication lags, or shows a turn in the opposite direction.
  2. If you are on a southerly heading and you start a turn toward the east or west, the compass indication precedes the turn, showing a greater amount of turn than is actually occurring.
  3. When you are on an east or west heading, the compass indicates correctly as you start a turn in either direction.
  4. If you are on an easterly or westerly heading, acceleration results in a northerly turn indication; deceleration results in a southerly turn indication.
  5. If you maintain a north or south heading, no error results from diving, climbing, or changing airspeed.


Answer the following prior to the briefing, using Instrument Flying Handbook chapter 4:

  1. The four elements of aircraft control are _____, _____, _____, and _____.
  2. How do we determine our aircraft’s attitude without reference to the horizon?
  3. How do we use the selected radial cross-check pattern?
  4. When would the inverted-V cross-check be more appropriate?
  5. The rectangular cross check?
  6. What are the control instruments?
  7. What are the performance instruments?
  8. How do we interpret the control and performance instruments? _____ + _____ = _____.
  9. In instrument flying, the standard rate of turn is __° per second.
  10. Radius of turn can be decreased by { increasing | decreasing } airspeed.
  11. In a constant-bank level turn, a decrease in airspeed would { increase | decrease | not affect } the rate of turn, and { increase | decrease | not affect } the radius of turn.
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