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I have known that when you climb, you push the throttle to maximum and adjust the vertical speed with the commands (elevator) and the trim. Then when you reach the desired altitude you pull the throttle to cruise RPM setting (2350 for example) and it will maintain level.

For descents you pull the throttle to decrease RPM and you adjust your vertical speed with the commands and the trim again. Then when you reach the desired altitude you push the throttle to cruise RPM setting again and it will maintain level.

Obviously, using the carb heat (hot when lowering down the RPM and cold when increasing).

Is this correct? Is there a better way to perform this maneuvers? Thanks, and sorry for the noob question.

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    $\begingroup$ "better" in what regard? Something cannot be "better" or "worse" without some basis for comparison (and some target to optimize).... $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Aug 25 '15 at 3:54
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To enter the climb, it's power, attitude, trim. That is, start by setting climb power, as you already know. Remember to compensate for adverse yaw with the rudder. Immediately raise the nose to the climb attitude. Your instructor will teach you to recognise what this looks like in your aircraft: e.g. there might be a part of the dash that lines up with the horizon. Your airspeed will drop away to the desired airspeed for the climb: usually the best-climb speed. Once you're stable and balanced, at the correct airspeed, use the elevator trim to remove the need for pressure on the stick (or yoke).

To level off from the climb, it's attitude, power, trim. Start by lowering the nose to a level attitude. You need to start doing this before you reach the desired height, as it takes a few seconds to level off. Once you're level, the airplane will speed up. When you reach cruise speed, reduce the power to cruise power, and compensate for adverse yaw. Again, once you're stable at the correct speed, trim away any constant pressure on the stick.


A gliding or powered descent is similar. Power, attitude, trim to enter the descent. First set the reduced or idle power, and wait for your airspeed to decay to the correct airspeed for your descent. When you reach this airspeed, lower the nose to the glide attitude. Once the attitude and speed are stable, trim the aircraft.

To level off from the descent, it's power, attitude, trim again. Anticipate reaching the height you want, just like when climbing. Raise the throttle to cruise power. Adding power will naturally cause a pitch-up tendency in most airplanes, so let the nose come up to the level attitude, and then you'll need forward pressure on the stick to keep it there. Once you're stable and level, trim away that forward pressure.


So for most of these attitude changes, the sequence of events is power, attitude, trim (PAT as a mnemonic). Leaving a climb is different: there it's APT, because lowering the nose first lets the speed increase to the cruising speed before you need to touch the throttle. Whenever you change power, you'll need to use rudder to compensate for adverse yaw.

Generally, you maintain the correct rate of climb or descent by keeping the correct airspeed, not by looking at the vertical speed indicator. Usually you just want the best rate of climb or descent, and you'll already know what airspeed achieves this, so it's easy to just check the airspeed indicator every so often and pitch up if you're too fast, or down if you're too slow. There are circumstances where you need to keep a particular rate of climb or descent, but that's not the norm so it's not what's taught first to student pilots.

The Pilots' Operating Handbook for the aircraft you're flying will tell you when carb heat is needed. In general, you should have it hot when you're at idle or low power (i.e. in the descent), and cold the rest of the time.

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  • $\begingroup$ Out of curiosity, say you want to climb so you increase power but you then neglect raising the nose to the climb attitude what would happen? Obviously, your airspeed increases & I assume that ought to lead to increased lift as well. So would you still climb but much slower vertical speed & a much higher airspeed than you want? Is this characterization correct? i.e. the attitude controls how much of your increased power translates to airspeed versus climb rate? $\endgroup$ – curious_cat Aug 25 '15 at 8:08
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    $\begingroup$ @curious_cat if you provided no elevator input and the airplane was trimmed when you increase power the airplane will pitch up and climb at whatever airspeed it was trimmed for and whatever climb rate that yields. $\endgroup$ – casey Aug 25 '15 at 13:16
  • $\begingroup$ My instructor simply told me to use the AH on the PFD, aiming for 20 degrees on a takeoff climb and 10 for altitude changes in flight. Instrument readouts are much more reliable than lining up cockpit elements with the horizon (as both will change based on the plane, location and altoitude), and it's sitting right there in front of you so there's no good reason not to use it. You just have to make sure you continue to scan outside the cockpit and don't become too focused on the instruments. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Aug 25 '15 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ And why they say "don't fly with the trim"? What does this mean? $\endgroup$ – nick Aug 25 '15 at 16:54
  • $\begingroup$ @KeithS That's a good point, but for this answer I wouldn't use the AH as my main example, simply because many training aircraft don't have one. And of course if you find out on your take-off climb that the AH isn't working, you'll need to judge everything by eye until you can land, so you need to learn both ways anyway. $\endgroup$ – Dan Hulme Aug 25 '15 at 18:08

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