Instrument Reference Climbs & Descents


  • For a given power setting and load condition, there is only one attitude that will give the most efficient rate of climb

All procedures are GENERALIZED.
Fly the maneuver in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH)
and/or current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

Descent Procedure:

  1. Perform clearing turns
  2. Entry:
    • Constant-Airspeed:
      • Reduce airspeed to selected descent airspeed
      • Lower the nose to maintain constant airspeed
      • Airspeed is adjusted with the pitch
    • Constant-Rate:
      • VSI is primary for pitch after stabilized and airspeed is primarily for power
  3. Leveling Off:
    • Must be started prior to desired altitude
    • Lead depends on rate of descent
    • Approximately 10-15% lead is appropriate
    • At lead point, add power to level-flight cruise setting
    • Hold forward-elevator pressure until approximately 50 feet above the altitude then smoothly adjust pitch
    • To level off a descent at descent airspeed, lead the desired altitude by approximately 50 feet simultaneously adjusting the pitch and power for level flight
  4. Complete cruise checklist

Climb Procedure:

  1. Perform clearing turns
  2. Entry:
    • Constant-Airspeed:
      • Reduce the power to the airspeed and then pitch and power simultaneously
      • Raise the miniature aircraft to approximate nose-high indication
      • Power may be added
      • Once stabilized, the airspeed indicator is primary for pitch
      • Once stabilized the heading indicator is primary for bank
      • Airspeed is adjusted with the pitch
    • Constant-Rate:
      • While entering the airspeed indicator is primary for pitch
      • Once stabilized at the correct rate, the VSI is the primary pitch
      • Once stabilized at the correct rate, the airspeed indicator is the primary power
  3. Leveling Off:
    • Begin level off 10% of the rate of climb
    • Smoothly apply forward-elevator toward level flight
    • Once level flight is attained, the airspeed will accelerate
    • As airspeed approaches cruise, reduce power to cruise power
    • To level off at climbing airspeed, power is simultaneously reduced as the pitch is lowered
  4. Complete cruise checklist

Common Errors:

  • Over controlling pitch on climb entry. Until the pitch attitudes related to specific power settings used to climbs and descents are known, larger than necessary pitch adjustments are made. One of the most difficult habits to acquire during instrument training is to restrain the impulse to disturb a flight attitude until the result is known. Overcome the inclination to make a large control movement for a pitch change, and learn to apply small control pressures smoothly, cross-checking rapidly for the results of the change, and continuing with the pressures at instruments show the desired results. Small pitch changes can be easily controlled, stopped, and corrected; large changes are more difficult to control
  • Failure to vary the rate of cross-check during speed, power, or attitude changes or climb or descent entries
  • Failure to maintain a new pitch attitude. For example, raising the nose to the correct climb attitude, and as the airspeed decreases, either over control and further
  • Increase the pitch attitude, or allow the nose to lower. As control pressures change with airspeed changes, cross-check must be increased and pressures readjusted
  • Failure to trim off pressures. Unless the airplane is trimmed, there will be difficulty in determining whether control pressure changes are induced by aerodynamics
  • Changes or by the pilot's own movements
  • Failure to learn and use proper power settings
  • Failure to cross-check both airspeed and vertical speed before making pitch or power adjustments
  • Improper pitch and power coordination on slow-speed level offs, due to slow cross-check of airspeed and altimeter indications
  • Failure to cross-check the VSI against the other pitch control instruments resulting in chasing the vertical speed
  • Failure to note the rate of climb or descent to determine the lead for level offs, resulting in overshooting or undershooting the desired altitudes
  • Ballooning (allowing the nose to pitch up) on level offs from descents, resulting from failure to maintain descending attitude with forward-elevator pressure as power is increased to the level flight cruise setting
  • Failure to recognize the approaching straight-and-level flight indications as level off is completed. Maintain an accelerated cross-check until positively established in straight-and level

Airman Certification Standards:


  • Consider practicing maneuvers on a flight simulator to introduce yourself to maneuvers or knock off rust
  • Still looking for something? Continue searching: