Tight Grip, Not Good and Not Easy

Improving aviation safety for Mooney pilots

By Jerry Proctor, MAPA SF

I am not sure why, but at the young age of 66, I decided to learn how to play golf.  What also is special is, it was at my Wife’s urging and she even paid for my first ever golf lessons.  Well, how do you turn down a deal like that?  I have golfed a little, one or two charity events a year.   I did pretty well given it was team best ball and I was always partnered with very low handicap players.   They provided the long balls and I provided the comedy relief and material for America’s Funniest Videos.  By now I am sure you are asking, what does this have to do with Flying?  Hang in there please.

Well, after 10 golf lessons, I have gained a lot of knowledge, much less gained is actual golfing skill, but at least now I am quite aware of just what I am doing wrong.  Correcting the errors and then being consistent at it is much harder.  One common error of beginning golfers is gripping the club like it was a life line and you were hanging from a cliff.  With baseball, gripping harder is mobetta right?  Not so in golf.  If one was to grip tightly, usually the swing isn’t following the path of centripetal force and worse, with a tight grip, muscles contract as does the path of the club and you end up with the golf version of an Air Ball!

Well, finally to flying.  How many times in your training career did the CFI said, just relax, there is no juice left in the yoke?  The same thing happens in flying as with other activities, a tight grip contracts the muscle and with a plane, the climb begins.  More so, with a tight grip and tight muscles, it usually means you are controlling the plane with larger arm muscles and thus larger movements.  The oscillations resulting often only get worse, the tighter you squeeze.  This can result in an unending cycle of self-induced ups and downs.

I encourage pilots to fly the plane with just two fingers and the thumb.  Yes it isn’t appropriate for all situations such as a landing flair, but if the full hand is used, let it and your arm relax more.  Rest your left arm on the armrest.  Use pressure to adjust heading and altitude vs. arm movement when you have it trimmed correctly. Worse, when things get going bad, the two fisted approach is seldom helpful.  You now have for most of us, the dominant and stronger right hand and arm, teaming with the left to really over control the airplane. The Mooney is an absolutely beautiful airframe, none other like it, so let it do the vast majority of the flying and you use your light left hand to gently pressure it back to your desired flight path.  Final point, which of the two techniques wears you out sooner?  Fly and swing your golf club with a relaxed hand.  Thus ends my first and my only golf lesson, but stay tuned for more MAPA Log flying lessons articles.  

Jerry Proctor, CFII
Jprocmooney @gmail.com

Five new MAPA SF Pilot Proficiency Courses are typically scheduled each year. One should be only a single fuel bag Mooney flight away! Come see us and show us how you fly relaxed!