I've recently picked up flying lessons for ULL (similar to LSA in N.America). I've thought I've been doing pretty well (I guess my experience with computer simulation helped considerably).

Yet more and more I seem to have trouble with my feet and controlling the rudder - my instructor(s) tell me that I just seem to be "unwilling" to move them, yet it just seems to me somehow unnatural and awkward.

Are there some tips for novice pilots on how to dive into the rudder-control, best feet stance etc? (I tried to do a web search but couldn't find anything useful.) Or is it a normal thing for beginners to struggle with this?

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    $\begingroup$ Learn to fly a tailwheel aircraft: rudder use is absolutely essential there and you can't ignore it. Tailwheel pilots are moving their feet constantly. Or, one instructor suggested to me that I should fly around using only the rudder (instead of ailerons) for turning the aircraft. It's not the normal way to fly, of course, but the point is to force yourself to use the rudder, not to make perfect turns. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 14, 2015 at 12:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Pondlife Changing the aircraft for the lessons is not an option (and I'm yet far away from learning yet another aircraft, even though I'm looking forward to that!). The rudder-flying seems like an interesting lesson. Is there any risk of too-much rudder while flying at safe speed? $\endgroup$ Aug 14, 2015 at 17:19
  • $\begingroup$ @Czechnology Whether any such risk exists will depend on aircraft type. In the normal light GA planes used for flight training, there's not really much risk of that as long as you don't abuse it (i.e. don't wave it back and forth quickly while flying around, for example.) I'm not sure about ULLs, but I'd guess they're similar. Don't abuse rudder authority in an A300, though. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Aug 14, 2015 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ Check with your flying instructor, but in light Cessnas (for example) there's no real risk. If you hold the rudder in long enough on any aircraft then it will start to roll (there's a detailed explanation here) but in a typical trainer that will happen very slowly. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Aug 17, 2015 at 14:22

5 Answers 5


It's very normal for most students to struggle with the rudder initially.

One aspect that got me while learning to fly:

Unlike stick inputs is not 'applied pressure' that measures the effect of the rudder, but the actual physical displacement of the pedal. It was quite usual for me to feel the need for right rudder, increase pressure on the pedal but with very little actual pedal movement, so there was practically no effect on the a/c.

So I made a conscious effort when right rudder was needed to apply pressure enough To Move The Pedal.

In other words if you want to double the effect of the rudder you need to double the pedal displacement, not double the pressure applied.

Second thing that got me to using the rudder correctly:

Make a mental note to use rudder

  • when using the ailerons
  • when changing power settings.

Pretty soon these actions will become linked by the brain and you will do it unconsciously. Then with time you will also learn to use the correct amount.

On feet stance

I am pretty short at 1.70m so I was usually selecting the closest setting for rudder which was placing the rudders very close to my knees, and as such it was difficult to properly use them (as my body was literally resting on the pedals). I was once advised to push them further back and it has made a world of difference: adjust them so that maximum deflection requires just a little bit of hip effort and almost a straight knee. Try a couple of positions and see which one works best; your instructor can help to show you the proper adjustment, and it does make a word of difference.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for your tips! In normal turns, I'm already quite used to adjust the rudder accordingly (just as most students, my instructor's "ball, watch the ball!" will ring in my years for years to come) even though I'm yet far away from doing it subconsciously without watching the ball. But I struggle with it most during the takeoff and landing phases when the legwork probably has it's highest importance. After forty landings, only a fraction have been on my own. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2015 at 10:46
  • $\begingroup$ I'm the same height as you. As for the position adjustments, my small aircraft doesn't offer any. So I'm "adjusting" with a pillow behind my back which seems to help. Not sure if enough or not. But I mostly asked about the best position of the feet on the pedals - I'm trying to use just the front of my feet, with heels on the ground. But during sharper inputs this tends to get awkward. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2015 at 10:50
  • $\begingroup$ Feet position on the pedals is only important on the ground, if the brakes are controlled from the rudder pedals aswell. In that case heels on the ground is a must. In the air it doesn't make much difference, just keep your feet on the pedals and make sure none of your weight is being supported by the legs/pedals. $\endgroup$
    – Radu094
    Aug 16, 2015 at 7:01
  • $\begingroup$ Ok, good to know. My trainer plane has the brake lever on the control stick so there's nothing but the rudder under my feet. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2015 at 17:59

Fly a tail wheel airplane from the back seat, even if you don't learn how to land and take off. When you are sitting behind, instead of over the CG, you will feel every uncoordinated turn, and you will learn to use the rudder very quickly

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ You beat me to it! My (very serious) answer to this is to go fly a glider to witness the importance of the rudder or buy some time in a tail-wheel and just practice landings for a few hours. Either will demonstrate the role the rudder plays quite nicely. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Jul 9, 2016 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ The key is to fly from the back seat $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Jul 9, 2016 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ At this point in the OP's training any exp will be very beneficial. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Jul 9, 2016 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ As I've said before, I am looking forward to learn to fly a tail-wheel plane but currently I am practicing only on one type. I've managed to get my license a few months back but there is still a lot of practice I need, especially on cross-wind landings. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2016 at 22:45

I guess its normal for beginners and more practice will help. It did for me anyway.

When I learnt, my instructor told me when I was turning to think Bank Angle-Back Pressure-Ball, and repeat this while the aircraft was turning so I could monitor the ball (glancing in and checking once every ten seconds, looking out the rest of the time).

If you are climbing or descending you will need rudder one way or the other.

The other main use is when you are turning, e.g. if you move the ailerons, you should move the rudder at the same time, but when you are at the correct bank angle, you come off the ailerons and also come off the rudder as a rule, just making very minor adjustments as part of the Bank Angle-Back Pressure-Ball routine.

So to start with, try to practice moving the rudder every time you move the ailerons, even if only making a minor correction to heading.

Finally, just as I was told I shouldn't be flying more than 30 degrees angle of bank at low level in the circuit, neither should you be using the rudder on its own, or cross controlling (right aileron, left rudder for example). Giving the rudder a big kick on its own at low speed is the recommended way to get into a spin, not something you want to do at low level. So while you shouldn't be scared of it, do respect the rudder and try to fly in balance at all times, particularly when at low level / low speeds.

I would like to add I'm not a flying instructor, I'm only trying to give you some helpful hints here. Hope this helps.

  • $\begingroup$ P.S. Also programming yourself to release back pressure and step on the sky (with the rudder) when you are near the stall is good practice and should prevent a stall/spin from occurring. Your instructor will be able to advise more on this one. $\endgroup$ Aug 14, 2015 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ Isn't cross-controlling the technique used to counter side wind on takeoff/landing? As I've told Radu above, I have biggest struggle exactly during those phases. In normal flight, I've already learnt to check the ball in each turn and adjust the ball regularly. $\endgroup$ Aug 15, 2015 at 10:58
  • $\begingroup$ Yes of course the wing down technique uses a small amount of intentional cross controlling. I guess I was talking about unintentional cross controlling. If you are going to cross control you need a good reason for it as it's dangerous if you do it by mistake without really understanding what you are doing. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2015 at 20:25
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    $\begingroup$ Would just like to add, crosswind landings didn't click for me until I had over 100 hours... Just need to practice, practice.. $\endgroup$ Aug 17, 2015 at 7:45

Before you start up the airplane, make sure you can move all flight controls to their stops - full pedal, full aft column/stick. It may be a challenge for people of shorter stature. You may have to do a bit of fiddling around to find the right seat adjustments to accomplish this. Don't be shy to ask your instructor for help.

If you acquired experience on a desktop simulator without rudder pedals, it would be no surprise that their use will be unfamiliar.

One way to get used to working the rudder may be to practice sideslip. It's an important technique for an emergency (unpowered) landing because it's a good way to correct a too high/too fast approach (within limits) when you only have the one chance to get to your touchdown point.

It should be a natural thing when performing co-ordinated turns that as you bank the wing, you step on the appropriate (low side) pedal to correct for the leaning sensation and keep "down" feeling like it's straight through the center of your seat (as when the ball will be centered).

  • $\begingroup$ Full pedal on the ground is not really possible in aircraft where the rudder controls are connected to the front (or tail) wheel. I think sideslip helped me in some ways, because otherwise one never(?) uses a full deflection of the rudder, so it breaks some mental barriers. In the end, what really helps most is just practice and more practice. I've managed to get my licence a few months back :) $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2016 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ @Czechnology true. You'd probably only be able to feel for the stops when taxiing. $\endgroup$
    – Anthony X
    Jul 10, 2016 at 22:46

This can at times be difficult coordinate with other control inputs. It's also going to vary from aircraft to aircraft, but there are some basic situations where using rudder inputs will always be required.

1) Intitating/ terminating a turn. You'll always need rudder here to counteract adverse yaw from the ailerons. Try this: Execute several turns alternating from left to right and roll out straight and level once the turn is established and constant. Apply rudder in the direction of the turn as you do so, then cross reference whether the ball remains centered. If the ball is not centered, correct with rudder so that it is. Make a mental note of how much rudder was needed to center the ball and then attempt to apply that much rudder on the next turn and repeat this process. With a little practice you can begin to intuitively add the correct amount of rudder to correct for adverse yaw in a turn. The same process will apply as you roll out of a turn. Apply a rudder input coinciding with aileron input to roll out of the turn. Cross reference this with the ball, correct so the ball is centered and so on. Note: the amount of rudder required to do so will vary with airspeed and bank angle. But some solid practice will develop good motor memory for the inputs required over this range.

Cross control: Outside of aerobatics, this is most often used for slipping an airplane to slow it down or for runway centerline alignment of the aircraft during a crosswind landing. These maneuvers are going to be more difficult that making coordinated turns were as it is not terribly intuitive to cross control and aircraft and it will be done purely by feel and visual reference. Skilled slipping of an airplane, I've felt requires the pilot to first visualize a line that he wishes the airplane to track all the way out to infinity, then intimate the cross control. If the airplane begins to drift in the direction of the rudder input, ease off on the rudder and apply more aileron input until the aircraft returns to the intended track line. If the aircraft drifts away from the track line in the direction of the aileron input, ease off the aileron input and apply more rudder until the airplane returns to the track line. When using cross control in the roundout or approach in a crosswind landing, once you execute the cross control with aileron input opposite the direction of the crosswind component, you will use rudder to keep the longitudinal axis of the airplane parallel to the runway centerline. Aileron input will be used to control the lateral translation from the runway centerline. In other words, you will use rudder to keep the fuselage of the airplane parallel to the runway centerline and aileron to hold the airplane tracking along the runway centerline.


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