I received a great question from Nathan who said, “… I am looking to be a '47 pilot. Any tips or advice on what it takes to be the amongst the best?”
To be the best learn your plane, work with your crew, “trust but verify," and get lots of experience. The more hours you fly, the better you will become.
Now some tips on how to fly the Boeing 747…
Tip 1: Trim
Always trim her so you can fly hands off and she'll be stable. How to do that? Trim half as what you think you need. Little splashes. Always working toward perfect. Far too many pilots trim too much, then take it out then put more back in. It becomes an unstable mess.
Planes are inherently stable— it’s the pilot that makes them unstable.
Trimming the plane to fly herself, gives you the time ability to take your attention elsewhere as needed.
Tip 2: Learn how to fly the airspeed.
What? That’s an odd thing to say when we’re flying a plane. Well, here’s the deal…
Most simulator instructors will give their students in the old Boeing “gouge” power settings for airspeed. One setting equates to an airspeed. On the 727 25o knots is 2500 pounds of fuel flow. For the life me I don't remember them on the 747... And there is a reason I don't remember.
I learned very early on that anytime you take your attention away from your ADI to set the power, it’s like driving your car 200 miles per hour down the freeway while looking out the side window.
There are a few more problems with the gouge settings, such as the weight and atmospheric conditions will impact them. Then, has anyone flown a 747 that all it’s engines were producing the same power with the same thrust lever position? They don’t. So now your to manipulate four thrust levers to achieve a random setting instead of just flying the plane.
This brings me back to flying the airspeed. Note: this particular technique also works on the Airbus when flying with the auto-thrust disengaged.
For takeoff we set takeoff thrust. Cruise, we set cruise thrust. Descent… we bring the thrust to idle. But what happens when we reach 10,000 feet and need to maintain 250 knots, or ATC tells us to slow to 200 knots?
On any jet I’ve flown, I learned to bring the power back to idle to reduce my speed. When my speed is within 10 knots of the desired speed I slowly bring the thrust levers forward and capture the speed. The ten knot starting point enables the thrust levers to meet the speed right on. When I get within a few knots, I can wiggle the thrust to hold the exact speed. This works.
With the 744 or the newer Boeings (and the Airbus) these planes have trend vectors, making this technique easier. The procedure is the same. The trend vector tells you where your speed is headed.
How much gas pedal do you use to give you 70 m.p.h.?
Exactly what it takes.
Use this philosophy with the thrust lever too.
When you're on approach... pitch or power for speed? ... Power.
If you’re flying the glideslope you’ll pitch to maintain the descent rate that will hold the plane on the glideslope. If you’re flying too fast, bring the power back. If you’re going slow push it up.
The important thing to remember is you want to keep your attention, and scan, on your flight instruments so you will be able to fly on the glideslope, stay on course, and maintain the proper airspeed—not trying to find a power setting.
I learned to fly the 727 with this technique. I used it for the 737, 757/767, and 747, too. When I joined the 747-400 a couple different instructors had said, “The power setting is…” and I would say, “Thanks!” but never look at it. That's probably why I can't remember the gouges.
When you first begin flying a new plane you will have tunnel vision—a very small window of focus. This is another reason you shouldn’t be taking your attention away from the flight instruments. As you get more comfortable in your plane, your focus grows. It won't belong until you get the big picture.But in the beginning it’s imperative you pay attention to your primary flight instruments.
Nathan, I hope this helps. If anyone has any tips for Nathan, I'm sure he would love to hear them.
Enjoy the Journey!