Learn from the Autopilot

A tip to remember when flying in new airplane types.


If you’re ever piloting an airplane type that’s new to you and you’re curious whether the flight attitude you’ve chose to maintain on an instrument approach is ideal, here’s a quick and easy way to find out.

Set yourself up at the power settings you’d normally use to hand-fly the approach and then engage the autopilot in Approach mode. Note the flight attitude, as well as changes in pitch as you alter the configuration by selecting gear down and flaps. Get a feel for how the airplane behaves under the watchful eye of the autopilot, and you’ll also learn how you should be flying approaches with the autopilot off.

You can also gain a sense for proper roll rates using the autopilot in airplanes with which you don’t have prior experience, as well as the descent profiles on nonprecision approaches. It will usually take only one full approach with the autopilot engaged for you to have a good idea of how the airplane likes to fly.