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Why Pilots Walk Funny
2010-03-18

Why Pilots Walk Funny Ever wonder why propeller pilots walk funny? They do. The P-factor explanation from the instructors handbook tells the instructor how to explain this to the student. It has nothing to do with how much liquid consumed? Part of the difficulty comes from having two or more generations of pilots, none of whom have had the opportunity to drive a team of Missouri Canaries. Mules that is. This educational and experience deficiency can be partially overcome while explaining the P-factor. Thereby leading to the ultimate answer of the initial question.

Start with an airplane which has the training wheel under the nose. A Cessna 152 will do. With all three wheels on the ground the student should be carefully walked around the propeller to note that, when the aircraft and propeller is horizontal, the blades each form approximately an 11 degree angle in pitch from the vertical. The airplane should be imagined as a wagon and the painted tips of the blades as harnessed to two mules of identical size and strength. In this configuration the wagon (airplane) would be pulled straight ahead until made to gee or haw. Gee meaning right and haw meaning left. O.K. so far?

Now have the instructor hold the aircraft tail down while the student observes the angle from vertical the pitch of each propeller blade. The left blade is near vertical while the right blade has doubled its angle. Now the airplane/wagon suddenly has two completely different mules. The left blade mule becomes of donkey size or less while the right blade becomes a dray that once pulled a beer wagon. Now which way will the wagon, nee airplane, go? Will it gee or haw?

More often than not our last two generations of student pilots will chose the wrong direction. The odoriferous experience of mule driving having been denied them. Using the wing struts to move the airplane should show the student the error of his ways. Then it follows as the night the day that in a climb attitude an appropriate application of right rudder is needed to keep the airplane on the straight if not narrow. Whatever it takes to prevent a "haw" Which, of course, leads us in the great cyclonic circle to the answer of the initial question. It takes a lot of "Gee" Leg to prevent a "Haw".
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