Fly The Plane: 2 Tips to Trim the Aircraft

A student pilot is on his way for a 150 nautical mile long solo cross country to be completed in three legs. The Cessna 172 is in cruise and the pilot wants to level off. The nose is lowered and the aircraft is allowed to accelerate before the power is reduced for the desired cruise setting. The trim wheel is nudged forward till the pressure on his hand holding the yoke to maintain pitch altitude diminishes off completely.

In the calm climate, it will now be possible for the student pilot to fly hand-off unless an altitude or course change is required. With the workload reduced, he now has enough time to communicate with ATC for radar flight following and navigate the aircraft.

All this look so simple, but learning to trim the aircraft correctly was a mystery for the student pilot just a few lessons earlier. When the altitude was maintained, the airspeed used to go off, and when the airspeed was put in check, the altitude used to bounce out.

Faced with such situation, the workload of a student pilot increases in place of decreasing. We keep on juggling with the trim and it soon leads to frustrations as the other tasks in the cockpit are calling us back.

The first thing a student pilot should understand that an aircraft has the ability to restabilize. This means we should not respond to every minor change in pitch that happens due to certain disturbances such as light turbulence.

The second thing is that in order to trim the aircraft correctly, we should first establish the aircraft in the condition we want it to trim in. This requires a good amount of patience.

Another small tip on trim technique that comes from experience is that when the airplane has been pitch-trimmed, it will continue to maintain that airspeed with power reduced for descending to the destination airport. This will continue till a pitch adjustment is made by the pilot or the airplane is reconfigured with flaps.

Experience will also teach you that a go-around is a scenario that will need caution. When the throttle is advanced to execute a go-around, as the airplane is on short final, it will pitch up aggressively. This is because from an idle power the configuration has been changed to full power.

The workload increases in this scenario and the airplane has to be trimmed again to avoid excessive nose-high altitude. As the airplane gets back in climb configuration, it can be fine trimmed to remove any yoke pressure and the aircraft will climb at the recommended airspeed.

Learn more on trim from this video:



5 thoughts on “Fly The Plane: 2 Tips to Trim the Aircraft

  • May 1, 2017 at 11:02 am

    As an instructor I always taught students a mnemonic for changes in aircraft pitch. P.A.T. Standing for Power – Attitude – Trim. This is used for level flight to descent; descent back to level flight and level flight into the climb. The only time it is not used is when transitioning from the climb to level flight. It then becomes A.P.T. Attitude – (allow the Speed to build up ) Power – reduce to cruise setting; Trim – trim forward until one can fly ‘hands off’ with no more forward pressure. Most students find it easy to remember.

    • May 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      It is a useful input Mr David. It certainly is easy to remember with those mnemonic. I remember the gestures of hand made by my instructor when he taught me how to maintain the right altitude and airspeed and trim the aircraft.

    • May 10, 2017 at 12:03 pm

      thank you very much.


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