25 October 1997.

No lesson today; but seeing something about learning.

In my last lesson, particularly, I had a hard time keeping track of altitude and airspeed. I also had felt sort of vague and unfocused,and thought that was probably from having stayed up too late the night before.

Well, last night I had one of those little flashes on insight that clarify your view of things and give you a good feeling.

I was lying in bed, looking through one of the manuals in the Jeppeson Student Pilot kit that I bought after my second lesson, when I came to a diagram showing three instrument-scanning patterns--set ways of moving your eyes to get the most info in the least time. The basic pattern for straight-and-level flight, the caption said, is T-shaped and covers four instruments, centering on the attitude indicator where the two lines of the T intersect. Suddenly it came clear to me that the attitude indicator was the most important of these instruments--and that I'd been NOT looking at it at all. That woke me right up, because I then remembered using it all the time in the old Aeronca Tri-Champ. It's the only instrument that shows more than one thing about the aircraft, both roll and pitch. Furthermore, shows that info immediately; there's some lag in some of the others. And here, I'd been completely blind to it.

The odd thing is, I zeroed it before taking off each time, so I knew it was there. But for some reason I still can't identify, I had zeroed it and then shut it out altogether.

I think this is probably a common TYPE of problem in learning anything. My own students, especially in lit courses, often seem to have this kind of problem. There's something important that they seem blind to, and they struggle and feel frustrated until it finally manifests itself to them. Sometimes I can help them SEE whatever it is they're missing, but more often than not they have to make the discovery themselves. Neither they,nor I can see what it is they aren't seeing.

Well, I suppose that's just what the big deal has always been about SEEING-- from Oedipus to Faust to Willy Loman and on and on. You can't see what you can't see--until you see it!

Okay, I've seen this attitude indicator at last, and I hope--am pretty sure- -it'll help me fly the plane better.

I've also gotten serious about--or focused on--the rest of the instruments in the standard scan patterns. I've memorized which ones they are and where they're located:

Airspeed Attitude Altimeter
(gyro compass)
Vertical Speed
(They're round, of course, in the airplane.)

What's the logic of placing them where they are? It's A A A over T D V. The basic T, then, is

Airspeed Attitude Altimeter

The other basic patterns are L-shaped, one for bank control, the other for pitch cntrol. The one for bank control is

And for pitch coltrol it's
Airspeed Attitude Altimeter

Attitude is the only instrument in ALL THREE patterns! Why had't I seen that?

The actual placement of these instruments in the Cessna 152 is a lot more complicated than they appear here, of course. For example, the clock breaks up the pattern. I wondered why they placed it where it is--it seems to bbe creating and then partly filling up a blank spot on the panel--and finally realized that the blank spot is above where the control yoke enters the panel. I'm still not sure why that would require them to leave a blaqnk spot, but I'll work on that later. The important thing now is focusing on that attitude indicator. (Attitude is everything!)   To the right of these six instruments, there are two similar-looking dials for the readio direction finder, then the radios, then the tachometer, and other things.

All right, let's try to understand the logic better. For straight and level flight you pay attention to airspeed, attitude, altitude, and heading.

For banking and turning, you watch the turn coordinator, your heading, and your attitude--that is pitch and bank angle.

For ascending and decending, it's airspeed, attitude, altitude, and vertical speed.

The indicators for airspeed and vertical speed are diametrically opposite each other.

The big trick in all this, I guess, is learning to get the info from the instruments without having to think about where they are and what they're saying. You need to use the info, not ponder it.

Well, we'll see whether seeing the attitude indicator will make a difference on Monday.

[About a week later...]

It did make a difference when I started seeing the attitude indicator.  Beginning that day--for whatever reason--I started feeling generally comfortable with the attitude and have been able to keep it where I wanted it in most maneuers, ever since.  (Of course, when I'm concentrating on something new or anything really difficult, I forget to attend to other things, but that generally takes care of itself as I get used to the new thing.

When I made the tables above to represent instrument locations, I simplified the panel drastically--because those six instruments were the important ones for me at the time.  In reality, there are about three times as many larg-ish dials, gauges, and boxes; and dozens of other little gizmos--circuit breakers, switches, indictor lights, etc.  The one other  B I G  instrument that's always important to monitor is the engine tachometer.  In the Cessna 152, it's way over on the right, with the communications panel in between.  Here's a slightly less simplified view of the instrument placement:

    Comm Panel 
I've left out the fule gauges, the suction gauge, the circuit breakers, and lots of other things.

The comm/radio/nav panel is different in every plane.  Each of my first four flights was in a different 152, and I think those difference panels threw off my mental image of the instrument panel as a whole.  That's partly why I wanted to make these simplified views.

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