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Master CFI Tony Palesotti Says Remove the Variables

Aircraft do not have minds of their own, says Master CFI Tony Palesotti, and will do the same thing each time they are configured the same way. So when you know how your aircraft will perform in different configurations, you eliminate the variables in piloting and conduct safer, less stressful, and more enjoyable flying.

The pilot has the brains, the aircraft doesn't, Palesotti reminds us, with a smile. Regardless of how emotional a pilot might feel about his aircraft'love it, pamper it, dote over it'it is still just a machine. It will respond exactly the same way each time to the same set of conditions and control inputs, he says.

Here's an example Palesotti offers: 'I know my Cessna 310 will transition from cruise to the approach environment smoothly, if I reduce power to 20 inches of manifold pressure and maintain altitude. That will slow the aircraft to flap extension speed. I also know that if I keep that 20 inches, extend approach flaps, and maintain altitude the airplane will slow to 120 knots, the speed at which I want to fly the approach. When I intercept the glide slope and drop the gear, maintaining that 120 knots will run me right down the glide slope. Now I have to compensate only for the wind component and can devote all my focus to flying the approach. By knowing what that airplane will do each time I command it, I eliminate the variables. By eliminating the variables I don't have to jockey the throttle, pump the control wheel back and forth to maintain altitude, wonder when the airplane will reach the desired speeds, or any of the other actions that could distract from flying the approach.

The same applies to settings on climb, in holding patterns, flight through rough weather, or any other maneuver of a flight. As rudimentary as following a procedure seems, Palesotti laments, many pilots never learn procedural flying. When they don't, they are dividing their attention between the task at hand and all the self-induced variables. Removing the variables allows the pilot to focus more on the task at hand, increasing the safety of that maneuver exponentially.'

Master CFI Tony Palesotti instructs at Searcy, Arkansas (SRC). He holds ATP Multi, Comm ASEL, ASES, AMEL and helicopter certificates. In 2003 he was named CFI of the year for FAA's Southwest Region. He is an independent CFI & FAA Pilot Examiner, operating as Tony's Flying Service. You can reach Tony at, or at 501-268-7580.

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