Chapter 2—Ground Operations

Table of Contents
Visual Inspection
    Inside the Cockpit
    Outer Wing Surfaces and Tail Section
    Fuel and Oil
    Landing Gear, Tires, and Brakes
    Engine and Propeller
Cockpit Management
Ground Operations
Engine Starting
Hand Propping
Before Takeoff Check
After Landing
Clear of Runway
Engine Shutdown
Securing and Servicing


The following basic taxi information is applicable to both nosewheel and tailwheel airplanes.

Taxiing is the controlled movement of the airplane under its own power while on the ground. Since an airplane is moved under its own power between the parking area and the runway, the pilot must thoroughly understand and be proficient in taxi procedures.

An awareness of other aircraft that are taking off, landing, or taxiing, and consideration for the right-ofway of others is essential to safety. When taxiing, the pilot’s eyes should be looking outside the airplane, to the sides, as well as the front. The pilot must be aware of the entire area around the airplane to ensure that the airplane will clear all obstructions and other aircraft. If at any time there is doubt about the clearance from an object, the pilot should stop the airplane and have someone check the clearance. It may be necessary to have the airplane towed or physically moved by a ground crew.

It is difficult to set any rule for a single, safe taxiing speed. What is reasonable and prudent under some conditions may be imprudent or hazardous under others. The primary requirements for safe taxiing are positive control, the ability to recognize potential hazards in time to avoid them, and the ability to stop or turn where and when desired, without undue reliance on the brakes. Pilots should proceed at a cautious speed on congested or busy ramps. Normally, the speed should be at the rate where movement of the airplane is dependent on the throttle. That is, slow enough so when the throttle is closed, the airplane can be stopped promptly. When yellow taxiway centerline stripes are provided, they should be observed unless necessary to clear airplanes or obstructions.

Flight control positions during taxi

Figure 2-10. Flight control positions during taxi.

When taxiing, it is best to slow down before attempting a turn. Sharp, high-speed turns place undesirable side loads on the landing gear and may result in an uncontrollable swerve or a ground loop. This swerve is most likely to occur when turning from a downwind heading toward an upwind heading. In moderate to high-wind conditions, pilots will note the airplane’s tendency to weathervane, or turn into the wind when the airplane is proceeding crosswind.

When taxiing at appropriate speeds in no-wind conditions, the aileron and elevator control surfaces have little or no effect on directional control of the airplane. The controls should not be considered steering devices and should be held in a neutral position. Their proper use while taxiing in windy conditions will be discussed later. [Figure 2-10]

Steering is accomplished with rudder pedals and brakes. To turn the airplane on the ground, the pilot should apply rudder in the desired direction of turn and use whatever power or brake that is necessary to control the taxi speed. The rudder pedal should be held in the direction of the turn until just short of the point where the turn is to be stopped. Rudder pressure is then released or opposite pressure is applied as needed.

More engine power may be required to start the airplane moving forward, or to start a turn, than is required to keep it moving in any given direction. When using additional power, the throttle should immediately be retarded once the airplane begins moving, to prevent excessive acceleration.

When first beginning to taxi, the brakes should be tested for proper operation as soon as the airplane is put in motion. Applying power to start the airplane moving forward slowly, then retarding the throttle and simultaneously applying pressure smoothly to both brakes does this. If braking action is unsatisfactory, the engine should be shut down immediately.

The presence of moderate to strong headwinds and/or a strong propeller slipstream makes the use of the elevator necessary to maintain control of the pitch attitude while taxiing. This becomes apparent when considering the lifting action that may be created on the horizontal tail surfaces by either of those two factors. The elevator control in nosewheel-type airplanes should be held in the neutral position, while in tailwheel-type airplanes it should be held in the aft position to hold the tail down.

Downwind taxiing will usually require less engine power after the initial ground roll is begun, since the wind will be pushing the airplane forward. [Figure 2-11] To avoid overheating the brakes when taxiing downwind, keep engine power to a minimum. Rather than continuously riding the brakes to control speed, it is better to apply brakes only occasionally. Other than sharp turns at low speed, the throttle should always be at idle before the brakes are applied. It is a common student error to taxi with a power setting that requires controlling taxi speed with the brakes. This is the aeronautical equivalent of driving an automobile with both the accelerator and brake pedals depressed.

Downwind taxi

Figure 2-11. Downwind taxi.

When taxiing with a quartering headwind, the wing on the upwind side will tend to be lifted by the wind unless the aileron control is held in that direction (upwind aileron UP). [Figure 2-12] Moving the aileron into the UP position reduces the effect of the wind striking that wing, thus reducing the lifting action. This control movement will also cause the downwind aileron to be placed in the DOWN position, thus a small amount of lift and drag on the downwind wing, further reducing the tendency of the upwind wing to rise.

 Quartering headwind

Figure 2-12. Quartering headwind

When taxiing with a quartering tailwind, the elevator should be held in the DOWN position, and the upwind aileron, DOWN. [Figure 2-13] Since the wind is striking the airplane from behind, these control positions reduce the tendency of the wind to get under the tail and the wing and to nose the airplane over.

Quartering tailwind

Figure 2-13. Quartering tailwind.

The application of these crosswind taxi corrections helps to minimize the weathervaning tendency and ultimately results in making the airplane easier to steer.

Normally, all turns should be started using the rudder pedal to steer the nosewheel. To tighten the turn after full pedal deflection is reached, the brake may be applied as needed. When stopping the airplane, it is advisable to always stop with the nosewheel straight ahead to relieve any side load on the nosewheel and to make it easier to start moving ahead.

During crosswind taxiing, even the nosewheel-type airplane has some tendency to weathervane. However,

Surface area most affected by wind

Figure 2-14. Surface area most affected by wind.

the weathervaning tendency is less than in tailwheel-type airplanes because the main wheels are located farther aft, and the nosewheel’s ground friction helps to resist the tendency. [Figure 2-14] The nosewheel linkage from the rudder pedals provides adequate steering control for safe and efficient ground handling, and normally, only rudder pressure is necessary to correct for a crosswind.

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Copyright 2012
PED Publication