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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tips on Flying the Boeing 747… and other Jets.

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!

XOX Karlene


  1. GREAT blog! I love the pictures! :) I think you are right on track! I would tell Nathan the same thing. I am in the 767 simulator and as I think about how I've been doing things like setting power, your advice is excellent. Flying around with an engine failed is a great example of this because all of the movements are magnified. When you want to add power to maintain a speed, you add a lot more, when you need to trim, you trim a lot but not too much, etc. Again, great post and I hope to see you in a 747 one day Nathan!

  2. "Trust but verify," I love that and it's so true about everything in life! While I won't be flying a 747 any time soon, this advice still hits home.

  3. The greatest advice I was ever given, was to not let the airplane be somewhere you haven't been 5 minutes before. It applies to all sorts of scenarios like ILS approaches, emergencies, take off, and landing.

    I also always want to keep the blue side up, unless you're an acrobatics pilot lol!

  4. I have studied asymetrical thrust, but this information that Mrs. Petitt has posted is truly first class and answered a lot of questions. Thank you again. It is great to have pilots out there who are willing to help out a student.

  5. when using the electric trim switches, does the control column begin to move to the center?

  6. Daniel, Thanks for the great comment. I am going to write a special post for you on Thursday about about flying single engine in a twin-engine Boeing with an engine failure. This will be something that will help that flying on a single engine.

  7. Thanks Heather. I think that advice is perfect for everyone. Thanks for the comment!

  8. Such an amazing plane. Boeing is just generally awesome. I was listening to the radio today with these guys talking about the 767 landing gear up in Poland, and one of them said in a really epic voice, "Boeing: We don't NEED wheels." It was fantastic.

  9. Cecilie, that is excellent advice! Thinking ahead... being ahead of the plane... is essential. And yes, Blue Side up is excellent advice. It's all about having a good attitude! Thanks for your comment.

  10. Thank you Nathan. I hope this helps. And... Thursday there will be more. I forgot to mention the art to being a great pilot is one that is always thinking, learning, and growing.

  11. Jet Airliners, are you asking me if the electric trim moves the control column? If that's the question... No is the answer.

  12. Christine...that is cool. So... what 767 landed wheels up? Oh... I go out of town for a day and miss all the action. I do love Boeing. I love the company. The plane. And the employees.

  13. sorry what i meant is that if the control column is displaced and you use the trim switches, will the column move?

  14. Jet Airliners... no problem. And... the answer is no.

  15. if you are maintaining a certain amount of thrust, then would you control the airspeed using the yoke?

    while the airspeed is increasing or decreasing, would you trim, or would you first let the speed stabilize and then trim?

  16. You could change your airspeed with the yoke. But then you would be climbing or descending. Do you really want to do that?

    Yes, you can start tweaking in some trim while she's slowing down as you need it.


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