A slip occurs when the bank angle of an airplane is too steep for the existing rate of turn. Unintentional slips are most often the result of uncoordinated rudder/aileron application. Intentional slips, however, are used to dissipate altitude without increasing airspeed and/or to adjust airplane ground track during a crosswind. Intentional slips are especially useful in forced landings and in situations where obstacles must be cleared during approaches to confined areas. A slip can also be used as an emergency means of rapidly reducing airspeed in situations where wing flaps are inoperative or not installed.
A slip is a combination of forward movement and sideward (with respect to the longitudinal axis of the airplane) movement, the lateral axis being inclined and the sideward movement being toward the low end of this axis (low wing). An airplane in a slip is in fact flying sideways, which results in a change in the direction that the relative wind strikes the airplane. Slips are characterized by a marked increase in drag and corresponding decrease in airplane climb, cruise, and glide performance. It is the increase in drag, however, that makes it possible for an airplane in a slip to descend rapidly without an increase in airspeed.
Most airplanes exhibit the characteristic of positive static directional stability and, therefore, have a natural tendency to compensate for slipping. An intentional slip, therefore, requires deliberate cross-controlling ailerons and rudder throughout the maneuver.
A “sideslip” is entered by lowering a wing and applying just enough opposite rudder to prevent a turn. In a sideslip, the airplane’s longitudinal axis remains parallel to the original flightpath, but the airplane no longer flies straight ahead. Instead, the horizontal component of wing lift forces the airplane also to move somewhat sideways toward the low wing. [Figure 8-12] The amount of slip, and therefore the rate of sideward movement, is determined by the bank angle. The steeper the bank is, the greater the degree of slip. As bank angle is increased additional opposite rudder is required to prevent turning. Sideslips are frequently used when landing with a crosswind to keep the aircraft aligned with the runway centerline while stopping any drift left or right of the centerline.
A “forward slip” is one in which the airplane’s direction of motion continues the same as before the slip was begun. Assuming the airplane is originally in straight flight, the wing on the side toward which the slip is to be made should be lowered by use of the ailerons. Simultaneously, the airplane’s nose must be yawed in the opposite direction by applying opposite rudder so that the airplane’s longitudinal axis is at an angle to its original flightpath. [Figure 8-13] The degree to which the nose is yawed in the opposite direction from the bank should be such that the original ground track is maintained. In a forward slip, the amount of slip, and therefore the sink rate, is determined by the bank angle. The steeper the bank is, the steeper the descent.
In most light airplanes, the steepness of a slip is limited by the amount of rudder travel available. In both sideslips and forward slips, the point may be reached where full rudder is required to maintain heading even though the ailerons are capable of further steepening the bank angle. This is the practical slip limit because any additional bank would cause the airplane to turn even though full opposite rudder is being applied. If there is a need to descend more rapidly, even though the practical slip limit has been reached, lowering the nose not only increases the sink rate but also increases airspeed. The increase in airspeed increases rudder effectiveness permitting a steeper slip. Conversely, when the nose is raised, rudder effectiveness decreases and the bank angle must be reduced.
Discontinuing a slip is accomplished by leveling the wings and simultaneously releasing the rudder pressure while readjusting the pitch attitude to the normal glide attitude. If the pressure on the rudder is released abruptly, the nose swings too quickly into line and the airplane tends to acquire excess speed. Because of the location of the pitot tube and static vents, airspeed indicators in some airplanes may have considerable error when the airplane is in a slip. The pilot must be aware of this possibility and recognize a properly performed slip by the attitude of the airplane, the sound of the airflow, and the feel of the flight controls. Unlike skids, however, if an airplane in a slip is made to stall, it displays very little of the yawing tendency that causes a skidding stall to develop into a spin. The airplane in a slip may do little more than tend to roll into a wings level attitude. In fact, in some airplanes stall characteristics may even be improved.