Games People Play – AOPA

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Flying might not seem to lend itself to games, but there are some that you can safely play in this very serious environment. And the benefits are tangible. Playing a game is just another way of teaching yourself to do something, albeit in a more flexible way. Here are some games to try.

Toilet paper scrap

Have you ever been to an air show and watched Patty Wagstaff zoom in on a banner a few feet above the ground? You’re not ready to mimic low-level Wagstaff maneuvers, but you can have fun and you don’t need an extra to do it.

Editor Dave Hirschman likes to play this game with students who are hesitant to make sharp turns or pull hard on the controls. Unroll a roll of single-ply toilet paper at least two feet, drop it out the window to let it unroll, then twist it to slice it with the wing. Extra points if you can slice the streamer more than twice in one go. Hirschman said students performed best when they continued straight for about five seconds after the drop, then turned with a 45-degree course change to the right, followed by a steep downward 180-degree turn to the left. The target will be at your 10 o’clock position at the end of the 180 degree turn.

To ensure that you follow Federal Aviation Regulations when playing this game, remember that FAR 91.15 says, “No pilot at the controls of a civil aircraft may authorize the fall of any object from that aircraft. in flight that creates a hazard to persons or property.However, this section does not prohibit the dropping of an object if reasonable precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property.

Soar like a hawk

Another Hirschman favorite is to make slow flight a real-world exercise where you’re at an extremely low speed and high angle of attack, but keeping your eyes out and flying at touchdown, instead of fixated on speed and vertical speed indicators. This “hover like a hawk” game is a favorite of flight instructors, as student pilots are always amazed at the fact that they can fly at ground speeds close to zero knots. Flying at the lowest possible ground speed requires very slow turns, reference to the ground, and adjusting to changing winds as you balance on the stall.

Wheelie on

Find a nice long track on terrain with no towers or a nice long track on terrain with towers that isn’t heavily trafficked. When the rear wheels touch, see how long you can hold the front wheel. This game should help with rudder control and maintaining the center line. A game like this requires a good pre-flight briefing with your flight instructor to make sure you know what to do if you have to bounce back and get airborne again.


Rig a plane for a “ground check”

Here’s a way to have fun when the weather isn’t suitable for flying but you don’t want to pass up an opportunity to learn. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and this game mimics an event that is part of the National Intercollegiate Flying Association’s annual Safety and Flight Evaluation Conference (SAFECON, which some have called the Final of NCAA basketball college aviation competitions). Ask your flight instructor to rig or annoy an airplane with as many things as they can think of that could cause an airplane to fail its preflight inspection. You then have a set amount of time, say 15 minutes, to find as many as you can. Note to CFIs: keep track of your bugs and don’t forget to put everything back as you found it.

cloud surfing

For instrument students or to introduce pilots flying under visual flight rules to the effects of a transition from visual references to instrument flight conditions, file an instrument flight plan and collect your clearance from ATC . Then request an IFR airspace block and cloud surf – fly along the tops of the clouds inside that airspace block. The CFI who plays this game with student instrumentalists recommends that you request a block of airspace about 10 miles from a VOR or fix, away from airports or instrument approach corridors. The airspace block must be between 1,000 and 2,000 feet; for example, you can request a block between 5,000 feet and 7,000 feet.

draw it

We’ve seen an increase in pilots drawing pictures using their GPS flight paths and electronic flight bags, and yes, they sometimes draw these pictures to get attention on social media. But there are advantages to burning avgas this way: it helps with piloting and recognition of landmarks. Use ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, or another electronic flight planning tool to draw a simple shape, like a heart or a star. The key here is to use landmarks or visual waypoints to outline the design. Then fly the flight path and see how accurately you can render your design. Just, uh, keep it clean.

Crush it

Helicopter pilots have fun too. You could say they have more fun because of the way they can maneuver a helicopter and the things they can do with that maneuverability. One of these games is “smash it”, which is literally about finding things to smash with the skids of the helicopter: anthills, bushes, milk cartons, cones. Or, try knocking a cone over with a skate and then, here’s the really tricky part, getting the cone straight with the skate.

It teaches “really precise hover control,” according to AOPA content producer Ian J. Twombly, a rotary and fixed-wing pilot. “To knock over the cone is easy, but to take it back was really difficult. You need to get over the cone, lower a bit slowly, then hook the lower lip with the inside of the skate, then move to the left (assuming you’re doing it on the rider side) to raise it up. Doing it once was hard enough, but multiple times really stresses your focus.

Or, try this: pick something specific – a speed camera, a yellow sports car, a two-masted sailboat, a herd of bighorn sheep – and go find it. Some helicopter pilots call this game “BOLO” (law enforcement jargon for “be on the lookout”) and say that it forces the helicopter pilot to move their visual cues from macro to micro.

I asked a friend from CFI if he had ever played games of this type with his students. “No,” he said. “It was their money.” That’s a good point. If you have a curriculum and lesson plan and you are progressing well, there may be no need to indulge in games. On the other hand, if you’ve hit a plateau or feel like the workout has become rote and uninteresting, try a few of these games to give your workout a different flavor.

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