The Overworked Rudder – Time to Let It Go on Vacation

The Overworked Rudder

Right after 9/11 I was in New York to see the extreme damage from the worst attack on our country.  While I was there an Airbus that was flown by American Airlines lost control while entering wake turbulence after take-off.  The second officer was flying.  Instead of using the ailerons to establish control from the wake he went on an aggressive action to try to stabilize the aircraft with the rudders.  He “jammed” the rudder pedals from one side to the other.  Airbus never recommended aggressive rudder action for wake turbulence, but it was not put into the American Airlines operating manual for this particular Airbus. Needless to say, the force took out the vertical stabilizer. 

The FAA has “trained” us that when we lose an engine, we must work the rudder.  We have continually shown pilots on our method of engine loss that the plane will probably fly without ever adjusting the rudder. We do not tell you not to adjust the rudder but on the large twin aircraft the way you try to get the rudder to help will either help you are hurt you.  What we teach is to “fine tune” the rudder with your fingers.  How do you do this? With the rudder trim a little bit at a time.  After “stabilizing” the aircraft after the engine loss and, we have our “pucker factor” under control from the loss, we then start using our fingers to adjust the rudder trim. We do not look for the ball movement but for an increase in airspeed and/or a slight climb on the VSI (vertical speed indicator).  If we get a very slight increase, we try again.  We will slowly, and I mean very slowly, make the rudder trim adjustment until we get a loss of speed and/or vertical speed.  If we adjust and the speed and the VSI starts to decrease, we put it back where it was and monitor the speed and VSI. Then we are done adjusting and we ride with what we have.

Controlling an aircraft on an engine loss is based on the knowledge of what is really happening. It is not on what you do, one way for every situation.  You vary the temp, the load, the density altitude, the CG and other small factors these will change the landscape of single engine management. This is why we teach our four-step program on engine loss.  Every engine loss is not the same. We show you how to make it work with all the variables. The one size fits all is the FAA way and pilots are smart enough to read the situation and apply changes to fit the exact conditions of the single engine loss.

Train Hard

Fly Safe

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