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Manual flight handling characteristics of airliners

Sun Nov 04, 2018 2:53 am

For those who have flown them - we are talking anything from regional jets to the mighty 747. What does it feel like to control the aircraft via the yoke or sidestick, as compared to something like a C172? Does the operation feel heavy and unresponsive?

For those who've flown multiple types - are there certain aircraft that have handled better or worse? Do smaller jets handle more responsively than larger ones? Does Boeing's FBW aircraft feel similar to their conventional systems? How do sidesticks stack up to conventional yokes?

A lot of questions, I know. Just very curious! I've only had, and probably only ever will have, experience on small piston driven aircraft. Thanks in advance to your responses! :wave:
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Re: Manual flight handling characteristics of airliners

Sun Nov 04, 2018 3:20 am

Not so much heavy as dull. Hydraulic controls have artificial feel systems which imitate your 172, but never duplicate the closeness one has with direct cables. The F-100 was light as a feather and as responsive as a T-38. The A-10 less so. The C-5 was a baby carriage once you overcame the initial breakout forces, think a minor notch, especially on the ailerons. Easier than the Challenger 600-series including the CRJ was a truck with a similar notchiness on break out of neutral. The Global was better than the Challenger, but not as nice as the C-5 with its power steering. None are like a Champ. It’s the difference between power steering in a Cadillac and manual steering on an early Porsche.

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Re: Manual flight handling characteristics of airliners

Sun Nov 04, 2018 3:29 am

Change of attitude vs change of direction: The crucial difference in big jets is the greater inertia. While pitch and roll can be changed rather rapidly, any change in actual trajectory takes longer than in a light piston. For example in a go-around after a couple of seconds in the C172 you're climbing. It takes a bit more time to convince a big jet to change direction. As GalaxyFlyer puts it above, "Not so much heavy as dull."

Heaviness of controls: Light pistons like a C172 can take a bit of muscle effort depending on the situation. For example a steep turn requires holding back on the yoke for some time with a decent bit of force until/unless you trim it out. Moreover, response is not consistent across the speed range. Since there is no speed compensation, slower flight requires larger control movements for the same trajectory change.

From that perspective, a A330 is a piece of cake. A stick deflection always requires the same force. There is resistance but it won't make your arm tired. A given pitch deflection always gives the same load factor regardless of speed. A given roll deflection always gives the same roll rate regardless of speed. Up to 33 degrees roll you don't even have to put in back pressure as the aircraft trims itself. Very intuitive. (Caveat: given Normal Law.)

I've only been in a 747 sim a couple of times. I found it much heavier in roll than the A330, and lighter in pitch. Just habit I suppose. Again, though, control forces are not greater than on a C172. It is all nicely balanced.

Response to power changes is a different story. Push the throttle full forward on a 172 and you pretty much instantly get full power. Do the same with the thrust levers on a A330, and it will take several seconds to get full thrust. This is one of the reasons that on approach in a big jet it is discouraged to make rapid thrust changes. Set... wait... adjust as needed... wait...
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
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Re: Manual flight handling characteristics of airliners

Sun Nov 04, 2018 4:46 am

The 737 is like driving an old Cadillac or pickup. Loosely goosed but deliberate too. I greatly enjoy Hand flying it.
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Re: Manual flight handling characteristics of airliners

Sun Nov 04, 2018 5:55 am

As far as sidestick on Airbuses go, (at least on 320s anyway) you just point the nose where you want it and once you get it to where you want you just let go. The aircraft attitude will stay there until you move the side stick again. The only time you feel "heaviness" with a stidestick is executing a go around after you touchdown. The horizontal stab trim automatically resets to zero after touchdown, so when you pull back on the sidestick to go around, you really have to pull the stick back "a lot more" than you normally would to get the nose off the ground until the autotrim gets the plane back into trim for the go-around.

The inertial range of an airliner is a lot greater than the inertial range on a 172. With a 172 you just control the elevator and trim the elevator trim tab to cover the 80kt range between 40 - 120kts. On an airliner your yoke/sidestick controls just the tiny elevator, but trim the entire horizontal stab to cover the 250kt range between 100 to ~350kts..

The elevator on an Embraer 145 is totally manual, no hydraulics involved, just like a 172, so the slower the plane is flying, the more you have to move the elevator to get the pitch to change. When the airplane is on the ground, the elevator is held by an electro-hydraulic gust lock. It's removed just before you take the runway and locked right after exiting the runway after landing. It's pretty dangerous on a gusty windy day to not have someone holding the yoke with the gust lock removed. The yoke would pistol-whip you quicker than you would blink an eye. There have been rare instances where some crews have tried to takeoff with the elevator gust lock still installed - they just don't get very far.
Bonus animus sit, ab experientia. Quod salvatum fuerit de malis usu venit judicium.
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Re: Manual flight handling characteristics of airliners

Sun Nov 04, 2018 8:54 am

Similar thread in somewhere in here...maybe 6 years ago or so...I can recall tons of praise for the L1011...and that the 767 is very sensitive in roll...look for it somewhere in here...

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Re: Manual flight handling characteristics of airliners

Tue Nov 06, 2018 2:58 am

Thanks everyone for the responses, definitely has enlightened me. "Loosely goosed" has to be my favorite description of... pretty much anything ever.

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