Updated: Feb 10

Straight and Level Flight Lesson by wifiCFI

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To determine that the applicant exhibits satisfactory knowledge, risk management, and skills associated with straight-and-level flight.


The applicant demonstrates understanding of:

Effect and use of flight controls.

The integrated flight instruction method.

Outside and instrument references used for pitch, bank, yaw, and power control.

Trim procedure.

Methods that can be used to overcome tenseness and overcontrolling.

Straight and Level Flight (AFH C3)

Straight-and-level flight is flight in which heading and altitude are constantly maintained.

The four fundamentals are in essence a derivation of straight-and-level flight.

As such, the need to form proper and effective skills in flying straight and level should not be understated.

Precise mastery of straight-and-level flight is the result of repetition and effective practice.

Straight-and-level, unaccelerated flight is accomplished when thrust = drag and lift = weight.

If an airplane’s lift were to become greater than its weight, the airplane would climb.

Conversely, if an airplane’s weight were to become greater than its lift, the airplane would descend.

If an airplane’s thrust were to become greater than its drag, the airplane would accelerate.

Conversely, if an airplane’s drag were to become greater than its thrust, the airplane would decelerate.

Level flight is a matter of consciously fixing the relationship of a reference point on the airplane in relation to the natural horizon.

Straight flight is accomplished by visually checking the lateral level relationship of the airplane’s wingtips to the natural horizon.

Depending on whether the airplane is a high wing or low wing, both wingtips should be level and equally above or below the natural horizon.

Pitch Control

Controlling of the airplane’s pitch attitude about the lateral axis by using the elevator to raise and lower the nose in relation to the natural horizon or to the airplane’s flight instrumentation.

Pitch Control Instruments

Cockpit instruments that can be used to aid in pitch control are: Airspeed Indicator, Attitude Indicator, Altimeter, and Vertical Speed Indicators.

Bank Control

Controlling of the airplane about the airplane’s longitudinal axis by use of the ailerons to attain a desired bank angle in relation to the natural horizon or to the airplane’s instrumentation.

Bank Control Instruments

Cockpit instruments that can be used to aid in bank control are: Attitude Indicator, Turn Coordinator, and Heading Indicators.

Trim Control

Relive tenseness and overcontrolling of the airplane through use of the airplane’s trim control.

An improperly trimmed airplane requires constant flight control pressures from the pilot, produces tension and fatigue, distracts the pilot from outside visual scanning, and contributes to abrupt and erratic airplane attitude control inputs.

Integrated Flight Instruction

When introducing basic flight maneuvers to a beginning pilot, it is recommended that the “Integrated” or “Composite” method of flight instruction be used.

This means the use of outside references and flight instruments to establish and maintain desired flight attitudes and airplane performance.

Common Errors

Attempting to use improper pitch and bank reference points on the airplane to establish attitude.

Forgetting the location of preselected reference points on subsequent flights.

Attempting to establish or correct airplane attitude using flight instruments rather than the natural horizon.

“Chasing” the flight instruments rather than adhering to the principles of attitude flying.

Mechanically pushing or pulling on the flight controls rather than exerting accurate and smooth pressure to affect change.

Not scanning outside the cockpit to look for other aircraft traffic, weather and terrain influences, and not maintaining situational awareness.

A tight palm grip on the flight controls resulting in a desensitized feeling of the hand and fingers, which results in overcontrolling the airplane.

Habitually flying with one wing low or maintaining directional control using only the rudder control.

Failure to make timely and measured control inputs when deviations from straight-and-level flight are detected.

Inadequate attention to sensory inputs in developing feel for the airplane.

FAA Sources Used for this Lesson

Airplane Flying Handbook (AFH) Chapter 3

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