Action — Reaction

Newton's third law states that for each action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This concept can be applied in the cockpit too. For each action there should be an appropriate reaction. There are many levers, knobs and buttons and it is quite easy to mistakenly grab or push the wrong one. To ensure that you are actually doing what you are planning on doing, take a second to verify the desired response before you divert your attention to the next task or move on to the next checklist item.

The action-reaction way of thinking can start as early as the preflight. Here are just a few examples. When you lower the flaps, make sure they come down evenly. Make sure that the lights turn on and the pitot tube warms up when the switches are flipped to the on position. Check that there is an audible warning when the stall warning is engaged. And during the runup, make sure that the controls move freely, that the ailerons move in opposite and appropriate directions, and that the elevator moves up when you pull back on the controls and down when you push forward.

The verification of a proper reaction becomes even more important in flight. For example, make sure that the manifold pressure drops (or the RPM if you are flying an airplane with a fixed pitch propeller) when you pull the throttle control. If the MP does not drop, ensure that you actually pulled the throttle and not the mixture. Otherwise the reaction will soon be a very different reduction in engine power, one resulting from fuel starvation.

Similarly, if you are getting cold and would like some cabin heat, feel the air vents after pulling the cabin heat control to ensure that you get the desired reaction. With landing gear, verify three greens before moving on to the next task.

Improperly moving a control, lever or switch could have drastic consequences in the cockpit. Make sure that the airplane responds as expected to avoid a potentially dangerous surprise.

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Pia Bergqvist joined FLYING in December 2010. A passionate aviator, Pia started flying in 1999 and quickly obtained her single- and multi-engine commercial, instrument and instructor ratings. After a decade of working in general aviation, Pia has accumulated almost 3,000 hours of flight time in nearly 40 different types of aircraft.

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