Recently I have been focusing more and more on hand flying in the sim instead of taking off and setting the autopilot. I’ve always hand flown while taking off or landing, but its also a challenge to hand fly up to cruise, hand fly at cruise and continue hand flying down to my destination runway.
The other day I completed a flight from KIAD to KLGA in an A320 in commemoration of Cactus 1549, Miracle on Hudson. I made the choice to hand fly the entire flight, to include cruise altitude which was FL200. It was a very cool experience, and for someone who likes to constantly challenge themselves, it was rewarding to know that I could do it and can certainly hand fly on longer trips.
Give it a try if you find that you rely too much on your autopilot and would like to challenge yourself a bit.
Here are some tips and things I’ve learned to make hand flying easier, this is applicable for any aircraft.
- Airspeed is king - control you airspeed with pitch and trim. Your planned airspeed should match your flight plan and altitude. Just because your plane can go mach .90 at cruise doesn’t mean you should.
- Control you altitude with power, power back to descend power up to climb. This is closely related to your AOA when climbing or descending.
- Find the sweet spot while at cruise. What I mean by that is to balance your pitch, trim and power to the point where your device can just sit in your hands and you maintain heading and altitude with ease or with very little effort.
- Start with small trips like 10-20 minutes, build up to the medium hauls 2-3 hours. 3 hours is my current limit. For me, after that it doesn’t make much sense to hand fly.
- Practice finding smooth air, if you experience moderate to heavy chop at cruise, then go lower to find air that will smooth out your ride and make hand flying easier. Most times smoother air is a 1k foot difference.
Post your hand flying trips below, and enjoy the experience!