I have been researching on the use of rudder during flight e.g. during turns and noticed that several novices have issues using the rudder to achieve coordinated turns.

Often, I see comments stating that the "sense" on the use of rudder will develop over time / rudder use becomes second nature sooner or later / you should turn based on seat of pants etc

Question: Do experienced pilots of single engine propeller aircraft actually look at the inclinometer or do they solely use their "senses" to make coordinated turns? If they do use their senses, does that mean that "stepping on the ball" is no longer applied when you become experienced?


2 Answers 2


Yes to some degree but it depends a lot on your seating position. If your torso is fairly upright and not too well supported, slips and skids become easy to sense, beyond a certain point, as your waist muscles have to work to keep up upright as you "lean into the ball".

With experience it's possible to stay within, say, half a ball width of centre, without looking at it. It's tougher if the airplane has reclined seats or has seats with strong side bolsters that hold you in well.

That being said, you still need to glance at the ball it to keep it really centred while maneuvering and I tend to use both my leaning sense and glances at the skid ball at the same time, leaning sense for large yaw excursions and the skid ball for fine tuning.

It's a good skill to master when VFR flying because you can keep your head outside the cockpit where it belongs (in VFR) a lot more.

Gliders use a yaw string for skid control and because you are steeply reclining the leaning sense is fairly useless and you rely mostly on the string, which is easy because it's right in front of your face and you don't have to put your head down.

In any case, you still "step on the ball" or "step toward the lean". It helps to develop the automatic foot action so you squeeze the pedal with your foot instinctively whenever you move the ailerons. Pilots who learn on gliders have this action fully automated.


I have 900 hours. I still look at the ball as part of the over all instrument scan. The ball is colocated with 20 degree bank indicator as well, so I know when I making smooth, coordinated standard rate turns. Keeps me in practice for flying in IMC also.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Isn't it usually a 2 minutes turn (standard turn) mark, and not a 20-degree bank? $\endgroup$
    – user14897
    Dec 14, 2019 at 21:44
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks so much for your reply! As an experienced pilot, would you say that rudder use is somewhat second nature and scanning the inclinometer just gives you an indication on whether your "rudder sense" is accurate? Or do you actively look out for the ball to adjust your rudder? $\endgroup$ Dec 14, 2019 at 21:46
  • $\begingroup$ My plane has the rudder linked to the ailerons somewhat, so for shallow turns I don''t need much rudder input at all and I'll just glance at the ball. For tighter turns, I'l control it more and I'll look at it more, especially when the weather is rougher. Especially in IMC - gotta keep up your scan in case an instrument fails, always be cross checking. $\endgroup$
    – CrossRoads
    Dec 14, 2019 at 21:52
  • $\begingroup$ My old Cardinal was a '68 and it didn't have the rudder interconnect. The adverse yaw wasn't too bad, but it required a bit more footwork than a 172. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Dec 14, 2019 at 21:58
  • $\begingroup$ @ymb1 You are correct that it measures a standard rate turn, but the bank angle of a standard rate turn is related to airspeed. If you are flying an approach at 100 kts then a standard rate turn requires about 15° of bank. At 120 kts it is 18°. My guess is that CrossRoads is flying at around 125kts. Luiz Monteiro (among others) has a post explaining the math behind it. luizmonteiro.com/Article_Bank_Angle_for_Std_Rate_01.aspx $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Dec 15, 2019 at 0:05

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