On my very first flight lesson I got a half hour of solo time before receiving any dual… honest! It was too windy at first so my instructor settled me in the front seat and showed what the stick and pedals do, then said, “Don’t take off without me,” and walked away. In those precious minutes of ‘wind jamming’, I gained valuable experience before ever leaving the ground.
The idea was to ‘fly’ that wing into the wind and keep it level, which is surprisingly easy given sufficient air flow. At first I moved the stick too much, naturally, and pedals too little, like everyone else in the known universe. Once I gave my feet a chance, the Blanik’s castering tailwheel allowed exploration of yaw as well as roll, but that complicated things. I would turn too far and immediately ‘crash’, after which the bird would weathervane into the next gust and we could start over.
Hauling a downed wing up off the ground was hardest, and quite by accident I discovered that cross control, or ‘bottom’ rudder helps — a trick which only works on the ground believe it or not. It’s so simple, I’m ashamed to admit several seasons passed before I finally paused a moment and thought this through. Say you’re on the ground, parked into the wind with the left wing down. You’ll need right stick of course, but odd as it sounds, a secondary effect of left rudder imparts a torsion that twists the fuselage clockwise and adds to the rolling force of the right-deflected ailerons. (In the air it’s a slip, as you know.)
Gradually I learned to avoid that crash by feathering the controls and swinging back the other way. My conceptual grasp was near zero, but I began to anticipate what would happen and articulate my influence on the result like a toddler learning to walk.
When my instructor returned I proudly rocked the wings, then froze them neat and level. Unimpressed, she stepped upwind of one wing and with a cynical smirk stretched out her arms along the leading edge, stalling it to the ground without touching it.
After that we went up to see how different everything feels when the wheel is not on the ground…
I’ve done this same exercise with many first-timers over the decades since, and recommend it. Always makes everyone smile. There’s more to say however, before we put this topic to rest.
One thing, where possible, leave the tow hook secured to the ground, especially if your solo artist is light of weight! In a two-seater, start by demonstrating from the back seat, and have first timers cycle spoilers, making sure they’re ready to use them if a rogue gust makes that necessary. (When the wind is strong, leave spoilers out for the whole drill.)
And what about the canopy? In hot sun you may need to keep it securely open, somehow, and if closed it’s gotta be locked. Any first timer alone in the cockpit should understand this — and it wouldn’t hurt to hover nearby just in case…
Now just for poops and piddles, consider this. In actual flight that secondary effect acts against the other forces generating a turn. It must be very minor but it’s there. (Adverse roll?) So, what if we had the rudder below the fuselage, like on boats, duh? Wouldn’t that put its twisting force in service of the roll rather than against it, requiring less aileron and improving efficiency?
Perhaps, but then every landing would bust the rudder again, and that could get old. Maybe those original designers had it right after all.