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Groundschool – Theory of Flight

Content – Flight Theory guide

Rev. 29 — page content was last changed 11 March 2011
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A note from the author

The intent of this flight theory guide is to improve the underpinning knowledge and thus the situational awareness, airmanship and ultimately, the safety of recreational pilots and their passengers. The tutorial is written on the premise that no pilot can know too much about aerodynamics and flight; so the more information provided, the better the result.

Aeronautics and aerodynamics are very complex subjects. Since the initial 2000–2001 publication of the various modules on the Australian Ultralight Federation (later Recreational Aviation Australia) website there has been (and continues to be) considerable feedback from readers requesting increased coverage or seeking additional explanation of various aspects. Consequently a large number of small additions to the text has been made over the years — some modules have been revised more than 80 times and their text content has trebled since first publication. In addition, the causes of accidents in world-wide recreational aviation remain distressingly familiar; which has contributed to perhaps an excessive laboring over some matters.

Experienced pilots can ignore module 1 (Basic forces) and start at module 2 Manoeuvring forces. If a student pilot finds some parts rather pedantic or long-winded then I suggest those parts be skipped through initially and perhaps re-read later on. This tutorial is not provided as a substitute for the many specialised print publications designed for student pilots and the BAK test. I have no wish to intrude on the commercial market.

A word of caution. I have found that some fallacies or misconceptions are often repeated from work to work. Be wary of the person who is adamant that there is only one correct concept and that all others should be ignored.

I believe the grasp of a concept is aided by using simple mathematical examples (about year 9 level) and there are many such distributed throughout the notes. I have used SI units of measurement for these examples, as such notation is now the only one familiar to younger Australians. To simplify matters a little the text is written around normal three-axis aeroplanes. Properties unique to weight shift controlled flex-wing microlights or powered parachutes are covered mainly in the weight shift control module. Some modules — notably take-off and landing — go a little further than simplified theory, emphasising safety in flight practices; but this is not intended to be a 'how to fly' guide. The last two modules deal with some aspects of 'how NOT to fly'.

Student pilots must remember that their instructor should be their prime source of knowledge.

This tutorial, being a web document, is continually updated and/or expanded. It is not intended to be anything other than a web document (taking maximum advantage of the in-text reference linking capability of such documents) though many people do download, re-format and print, because the print document, without the links, can be read in bed, or at the breakfast table, and can be readily annotated.

If you don't have a 'Symbolic' font available some characters in some expressions may not be rendered correctly.

The United States Federal Aviation Administration's Web site contains a lot of educational material. If you are looking for aviation oriented material suited for children aged 5–9 (and up) I suggest you visit the FAA Kid's Corner.

                        ... John Brandon

Basic forces - 43 kb plus images Manoeuvring forces - 53 kb plus images Airspeed and the properties of air - 88 kb plus images Altitude and altimeters - 36 kb plus images Aerofoils and wings - 95 kb plus images Engine and propeller performance - 53 kb plus images Tailplane surfaces - 22 kb plus images Stability - 28 kb plus images Control - 54 kb plus images Weight and balance - 26 kb plus images Weight shift control and powered 'chutes - 12 kb plus images Take-off considerations - 84 kb plus images Circuit, approach and landing - 71 kb plus images Safety: flight at excessive speed - 38 kb plus images Safety: control loss in turns - 40 kb plus images

    Supplementary documents
Operations at non-controlled airfields - CASA Advisory Circular - 23 kb

Safety during take-off and landing - CASA Advisory Circular - 57 kb

The first module in this Flight Theory Guide introduces the basic flight forces.

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