Top 10 Flying Tips of 2014

As pilots we're always looking for ways to improve our flying skills by learning as much new information as we can while also boning up on the topics we already know. This year, Flying published scores of tips for aviators, all of them written to help readers get the most enjoyment and safety out of the activity we all love so much. The top 10 tips of the year, as voted on by your clicks, offer up a trove of information on hands on flying techniques and practical advice you can put to use on nearly any flight. Enjoy!

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Click here to start our Top 10 Flying Tips of 2014 list. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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10. Coordinated Turns When we make a turn in flight, why do we use the rudder? We all know from the books the answer is to "correct for adverse yaw" — which is just a fancy way of saying to overcome drag from the aileron. When you initiate a turn, which should you move first, the aileron with the yoke or the rudder with your feet? The answer is the rudder with your feet. Starting a left turn? Add left rudder to start the roll in, followed by aileron and slight back-pressure with the elevator. When it's time to roll out, add right rudder first and then move your hand. Read the full Coordinated Turns tip here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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9. Prevent Structural Damage Always keep a close and critical eye on the instruments to make sure the airplane is doing what you expect it to do and that you don't put the airplane in a compromised position. If you are flying an airplane equipped with an autopilot and are using the vertical speed mode, it is really easy to overspeed the airplane if you don't pay attention. While flying in the yellow arc in smooth conditions is fine, you should never allow the speed to creep into the yellow when there is turbulence. Read the full Prevent Structural Damage tip here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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8. VFR in a TFR If you didn't think you could fly VFR in a TFR, there are some cases in which you can. In one case, the only requirements were to file, open and close a VFR flight plan, get a squawk code before takeoff and remain in contact with ATC during the course of the flight. These may not be the same requirements that are imposed on TFRs established for your area, so read the regulations carefully before you venture into this special airspace. And make sure to stay out of the areas that prohibit such flights or you may get surprised by an F-16 off your wing. Read the full VFR in a TFR tip here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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7. Limit Bank Angle in the Pattern? We all know that bank angle has nothing to with stalls. But turns do. And the simple fact is, unless we have a good reason to do otherwise, we want to avoid steep turns at low airspeeds because a high load factor raises the stall speed and also increases drag. We all know that a steep turn coupled with back pressure on the yoke at low airspeed can lead to a stall, but it's also true that a large increase in induced drag can cause an excessive sink rate. In either case, there might not be enough altitude to recover. Read the full Limit Bank Angle in the Pattern tip here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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6. Leave the Beacon On Whether the airplane you fly is equipped with a beacon, strobes or both, you are probably in the habit of turning on some type of anti-collision light, typically the beacon, just before you start up the engine. But you may want to consider leaving the beacon switch in the on position at all times. Turning the beacon on and off with the master switch is not going to cause any damage. And having the beacon on any time the master switch is on can help alert people around you that somebody is in the airplane and that the propeller is likely to start spinning soon. You should, naturally, still look around and make an audible alert before cranking up the engine to help prevent an accident. Read the full Leave the Beacon On tip here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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5. Dress for the Task You can minimize your injuries in case of a post crash or inflight fire by wearing clothing with a low flammability. You should stay away from materials such as polar fleece, silk or cotton and materials that melt, such as nylon. While cotton clothing is generally highly flammable, jeans are great because they are made with a tight weave. Wool and leather clothing also provides great protection because the material resists flames and has a slow burn rate, although it may be a bit too warm to wear in the summer. Many synthetic materials are also fire resistant. But it is not only the type of material that makes up the clothing that matters. How they fit makes a difference as well. Read the full Dress for the Task tip here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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4. Check Idle The next time you check the idle throttle setting before takeoff, pay attention to the RPMs. You should check the engine manufacturer's recommendations, but a good setting for most piston-powered airplanes is 600-700 RPM. If it is below 600 or up near 800 or 900 RPM, you should have a mechanic make an adjustment to make sure that your airplane does what you want it to do when you close the throttle. Read the full Check Idle tip here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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3. Mountain Top Landings Make sure you come in on the downwind leg at the pattern altitude and use a well-established approach procedure for the airplane you fly. Bringing the power to a specific setting, in most single-engine airplanes about 1,700 rpm, adding in flaps on each leg and targeting a certain speed on what is left of the downwind, base and final, are great tools that you should already have in your pilot toolbox. Use them. Don't make your target touch down spot too close to the approach end. There may be downdrafts at the end of the runway because of the down-slope and if you get slightly behind the power curve you may not be able to power yourself above the lip. If, on the other hand, you end up too high, you can always go around and try it again. So stay slightly above the targeted approach path until you are guaranteed to make the runway. Read the full Mountain Top Landings tip here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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2. Flying Angle of Attack How do you know that your airspeed indicator is properly calibrated? When was the last time it was checked? Chances are the only check that was ever made was right after the airplane left the factory. An angle-of-attack indication system, on the other hand, provides an instantaneous readout of stalling margin regardless of how heavily loaded you are, what spot of bank you've got dialed in or what the wind is doing. For those of us who fly without an AOA indicator, at least for now, the key is to unload the wing, which is easy enough to do in the pattern. Hint: point the nose down. You lose a little altitude in the process, but greatly reduce AOA, even if there isn't a gauge there to tell you as much. If there's no altitude to lose and sense you'll need to pull some Gs to make that turn, keep it wide, overfly the airport and live to get it right on the next circuit. Read the full Flying Angle of Attack tip here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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1. Constant Speed Prop Basics Chances are you've come across descriptions of how constant-speed propellers work, oh, about a thousand times since your piloting days began. Instead of rehashing how they operate, let's talk about tips you can use to get the most out of your constant-speed prop. The first tip is offered with safety in mind: After you push the throttle full forward, gather momentum on the runway and lift off, don't touch the throttle (black knob), propeller (blue knob) or mixture (red knob) until you've reached a safe altitude. After all, if something is going to break, it might do so because you moved one of these levers. It's best to gain altitude before adjusting power settings. Read the full Constant Speed Prop Basics tip here. Get online content like this delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for our free enewsletter.
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Want more? Check out our Tip of the Week section here. Or head over to our "Top 10 Flyings Blogs of 2014" to see what were some of the most popular aviation opinions this year.