Slipping vs Skidding: Why knowing the difference could save your life

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slip vs skid

I recently had an opportunity to go through a upset recovery course and while I learned a lot that I’ll be sharing, one of the the things that strikes me is how many folks don’t know the fundamental difference between a slip and a skid. 


I admit that my own perfunctory knowledge was just barely adequate in the face of years of disuse. This topic gets very little airplay outside of initial training leaving veterans decades away from the subject matter. Novices might actually be safer in this respect if they received proper primary training.


The basics

A slip is rudder opposite to bank. You are applying rudder to the high wing. Rate of turn decreases (or stops).The ball goes to the low wing.

A skid is excessive rudder in the direction of bank. The ball goes to the high wing. Rate of turn increases. 

The nuances

In spite of the taboos of “cross-controlled” flight, slips can be your friend. They aid in controlling glide path by inducing more drag without increasing speed and they actually make the airplane more spin resistant – to a point. If you stall the airplane with a bunch of yaw in (either direction) the airplane will spin. Don’t consider yourself spin-proof in this configuration. 


Skids on the other had make airplanes more spin prone do to the coupling of roll and yaw in the same direction. It is also easy to introduce a skid when you are trying to adjust your flight path, especially when overshooting a base-to-final turn. I lost a friend to this a few years ago when he let a pilot on a BFR put him too far into this situation. The airplane started into an incipient spin with no altitude to recover


There are bad things that happen with angle of attack and coefficients of lift during a skid that make this maneuver something to be avoided when low and slow.


So I encourage you to go out the next time you fly and reacquaint yourself with these maneuvers at a safe altitude and be sure to never confuse the two when you are in the heat of battle.


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by Brent Owens 

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