Initial Climb

Departure will be VFR. However, due to low visibility or dark night conditions, we may not have reference to a natural horizon with which to establish the climb attitude. So, we will substitute the artificial horizon for the real one, if necessary. Either way, we’re going to do the same thing we always do. At rotation speed, pitch up to climb attitude by reference to the natural or artificial horizon. Once you have rotated to the climb attitude, your airspeed indicator then becomes your primary pitch instrument.

The airspeed indicator is primary for pitch because you are in a constant airspeed climb. The airspeed indicator is the only one that gives you the pitch information you need to maintain a constant airspeed. The engine power is fixed at climb power, and you are adjusting the airplane’s pitch to achieve the desired climb airspeed. The other instruments can then be used to verify that your airspeed indicator is telling you the truth. The altimeter and VSI should indicate a climb, and your attitude indicator should show a nose up attitude. These instruments are secondary pitch instruments in this situation.

For roll control, the heading indicator is the primary instrument. This is because we are maintaining a particular heading and using roll to adjust the heading. The turn coordinator and attitude indicator then become secondary instruments used to verify the indications of the heading indicator.

Remember to use rudder to keep the ball of the turn coordinator centered.


When the time comes to make our initial turn, we will first establish the approximate bank angle required for the turn using the attitude indicator. Once the airplane is rolled into the turn, the turn coordinator becomes the primary instrument for roll control. This is because we are maintaining a two minute turn, which is only indicated on the turn coordinator. The heading indicator and attitude indicator act as secondary instruments in the turn. The heading indicator should indicate the airplane is indeed turning in the desired direction, while the attitude indicator should correctly show the airplane rolled in the direction of the turn.

Level Off from a Climb

To transition from the climb to level flight, lead the level off by about 10% of your vertical speed, just as you normally would under VFR. So, for a climb at 500 feet per minute, you would start the level off about 50 feet below your assigned altitude. Accomplish the level off by pitching over to approximately a level pitch on the attitude indicator, then use the altimeter to maintain altitude. Just as you would VFR, overcome the airplane’s desire to nose up as it accelerates to cruise speed by using nose down pressure on the control wheel and retrimming for the higher speed.

When the airspeed reaches the desired cruise airspeed, reduce engine power. In the climb, we were at a fixed power setting of climb power. Since we’ve leveled off, we will now also need to set engine power to maintain airspeed.

Again, remember keep the ball centered with rudder as airspeed increases and power is reduced.

The attitude indicator is primary for the initial establishment of climb pitch, descent pitch, and bank angle when rolling into a turn.