What is flying “on the step?”

What is flying an airplane on the step anyway? Some pilots say it’s a myth. Others claim it’s an old-timer technique. But some say it’s the procedure you use to set your airplane in level cruise flight for best performance.

Interestingly enough, flying the step has been a hangar topic among pilots and aviation writers for decades.  We can organize the discussions into 3 categories. Here’s a summary:

It’s a myth

Some pilots have belittled the idea and say that “flying on the step” does not exist. They assert it’s just an old-timer’s tale. These proficient pilots claim to have proven that it doesn’t work and say it’s just a myth. We’ll take a look at several aviation articles written by pilots who claim to have debunked the idea of flying the step.

It’s an old-timer technique

There are pilot’s who claim, flying on the step requires the use of a standard technique; which is, to climb slightly above the selected altitude then gently dive to accelerate the airplane “onto the step.”

Are there any benefits to using this old-timer technique?  We’ll review three reasons why you should try it.

It’s a procedure

flying on the step Cirrus SR22TN Turbo credit wikiWings
Flying on the step, Cirrus SR22TN Turbo, TAS 192kts, GS 212kts, 15.6 GPH, FL190, 75% Pwr. 2520 RPM, 29.6 MP, <380 degree cylinder temps, credit wikiWings

Yet others claim, it’s just the procedure a pilot uses to set an airplane in level cruise flight for best performance. The proper procedure can be initiated either from below or from above the selected cruise altitude. We’ll look at both procedures and compare some differences in more detail.

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