Your Plane Doesn’t Want To Fly Straight (and Fast)
Aircraft are wonderful examples of everything working against itself for a common purpose. The engine is pulling the nose downwards and twisting it on its axis, the wings are pulling the aircraft up, while the tail (with the wings) is trying to undo the torque effect (rudder) and the elevators are pulling the tail down to keep the nose up.
It’s a balancing act that the designers knew all about, and they had two answers:
- Design the plane to be in balance at the cruising speed and altitude so that everything is harmonized.
- Enable the pilot to make minor adjustments to the lifting surfaces to compensate for when the plane isn’t at cruising speed and altitude.
Welcome to the wonderful world of trim.
If one has ever participated in an air race in a flight sim, the effects of trim become horribly obvious. The same aircraft modeled the same way with the same loads should, because the maths are the same, perform exactly the same. Racing should be a matter of endless ties.
But they’re not. Someone will have figured out the right adjustments to fine tune the control surfaces to reach equilibrium while others won’t, bleeding speed from their ersatz mounts. The fast guys have recalibrated the plane to where they have a new “center” for the stick.
One of my squad mates is King of Trimming, and it infuriates me at times. He regularly flys faster than I at 80% throttle while I struggle at 100% to keep up. The tiny adjustments I’m making manually each take a toll on efficiency, while he’s hands-off and sliding through the air as if greased.
In the IL-2 series, it is why the AI pilots fly faster than we do on take-off, as they have a magical auto-trim built in. They’re always in balance!
There are advantages and disadvantages to being in perfect trim. The advantage is obvious: one can fly faster! The disadvantage is that one is flying straight and level, which I think is greatly oversold as a concept in a combat zone. A little slip and climb has been enough to throw off the enemy’s aim on a bounce. This is probably why 2GvSAP Chief usually has me in the number two slot behind him!
I’m definitely going to provide definitions for things and gear the articles to the novice or intermediate virtual pilot, taking things step by step without a great deal of technical jargon. As an other-than-natural at flight sims, most of what I’ve learned has been hands on and based more on practice than theory. Whenever possible, I’ll provide a small video to be a companion to the article.
I hope you’ll read and learn to enjoy flight simulations as much as I do with the future articles.
Thanks to Wikipedia for the stats on the LaGG and the Yak-1b.
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