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Can You Dutch Roll?

By Jim Alsip, NAFI Master Instructor-Aerobatics

Jim Alsip

Teaching pilots to fly tailwheel (conventional gear) aircraft and teaching aerobatics are very similar. The pilot must have command of the airplane to do either one. Being in command includes controlling yaw and coordinating the use of rudder and ailerons together. The Dutch roll is a great coordination control exercise. This maneuver involves simply rocking the wings, right? It seems easy enough, but the Dutch roll can destroy your self-esteem.

The Dutch roll is about using your feet. If you don’t fly a tailwheel airplane, you’ve probably forgotten or never learned to use your feet when flying an airplane. Sure, pilots talk about coordinated turns, and as students, they’re taught that the rudder is for...well, ahhh, you know, it is important.

The Dutch roll is a great exercise, and it’s all about controlling yaw. If you can’t do a proper Dutch roll, what makes you think: 1) you can gently touch down on only one wheel and maintain control of your airplane in a strong, gusty cross wind, or 2) correct your heading as you “float” inverted over the top of a loop?

Okay, so you fly tail draggers and you do a world-class Dutch roll. What’s next? Consider the Dutch roll – inverted!

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