Flying without Rudder Coupling
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Home > Articles & Tips Index > Flying > Flying without Rudder Coupling

[Courtesy of Joel Foner - August 1998]

This tip will no doubt raise a limitless amount of 'religious discussion', but here goes anyway...

This season I started flying a full-house HLG, and spent a while trying to get the aileron-rudder mix "just right".  Just as all the theory suggested, it became very clear right away that getting aileron-rudder mixing "just right" is impossible!   What works at one speed and turn attitude is not right for the others.  This is true whether you fly sailplanes or power planes - although if your throttle stick only has "on" and "off" positions you might see the effect less.

The end result is that you end up having to "fly the rudder" anyway, since much of the time the mix doesn't generate a coordinated turn.  Well, I decided to dispense with mixing, and after a while of doing "drunken sailor" turns things started to click.

After going back to mixing again (which I could then set up much better having done it myself), I decided to forget it altogether and "do it by hand".  The end result is that I don't have to think about whether I'm going to "let the radio do it" or "fix what the radio did" - I just fly, and for me it works better.   Near the ground, once mixing is off, you can purposefully slip through a low-altitude turn, rather than fully coordinating, to reduce the chance of catching a wingtip - and for power flyers, if you need to dump some altitude without flaps, learning to do a controlled slip is much less stressful to the plane than just "dialing in some down" and letting the landing gear and airframe take the abuse when you hit the deck hard.

This may not be for everyone, but some day try turning off the automation and see what happens.  (Yup, just like the movie - "Luke, use the force!".

There seems to be hot debate over this topic, but I have found a significant number of competitive soaring flyers who enable rudder mixing only for launch - even on the big open class ships, and otherwise fly uncoupled rudder.  At the same time, there is a reasonable argument to be made that once you get "way up high" you can't see well enough to tell whether the turns are coordinated so you might as well mix it.  What do you think?

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