How easy is it to trim a small aircraft in real life?

I remember in the early days in the sim I had no real control over speed and things ran away from me quickly. I thought trimming was something you only did to maintain level flight.

I’ve had a go at some of the slow flight maneavours - bringing speed down to 5 knots above stall and feeling the difference in turn rates and mushiness of the controls. It felt odd removing power to slow the plane to a crawl, only to have to add quite a bit of power back in (once flaps were down) to maintain it. Goes to show how much drag flaps create I guess.

Thank you

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Flaps, yes, but also induced drag from such a high angle of attack, which increases as you reduce airspeed.

I was just talking to another pilot last weekend about how much we enjoy slow flight maneuvers. It has legit always been a wheelhouse for me (in the sim, too!) and a great jumping off point for a lot of other maneuvers and aerodynamic theory.


LOL… my CFIs would have slapped me if I routinely had to add power as I brought in flaps and approached the runway. The objective was always to reduce speed at the appropriate point and add lift to arrive over the numbers on target height and speed.
Of course flying is a very fluid thing, you can only establish certain basic settings and speed targets, but have to modify them to some degree to get the outcome you want.

But for example in the Saratoga I flew the most, I knew exactly what the airplane would deliver for example for a given power setting. Going from cruise to descent was just one power reduction and she would settle at the same airspeed and -700 fpm.
When you go from VFR to IFR that sort of repeatable performance makes life a lot easier. Because you can focus on the many other things that are demanding your attention.
As for the occasional „keep your speed up“ from ATC, they were often impressed and appreciative of just how long I was able to do just that and still nail the landing and make the first turn off.
That however is something, just like crosswind landings (my absolute favorite), that does not come from books. You have to fly, watch and make note of the numbers your airplane delivers. And then practice, practice and some more practice.
The C-210 we used to fly Chase for Predator and Reaper UAVs was never so familiar, because frankly we flew in more or less close formation with the UAVs, but they dictated the profile. The Cessna simply had to be kept in formation or on other flights within sight of the UAV to be able to fulfill the see&avoid part of visual flying in public use airspace.
Not a lot of time to simply play with the aircraft, and especially with the turbine powered versions of the UAVs the old Continental usually simply had to give everything it had. Not a lot of finesse required.

I wish I was as good a pilot as you, but I guess I’m not… [sigh]

But it’s not that simple, either. The airport I fly out of (and did my training at) is class C controlled airspace, not some cow pasture in Podunk. More often than not, ATC will call your base turn a mile or more downwind. You can’t just pull the power when you’re abeam the numbers on downwind and glide down without touching the power. If you want to do that, you have to ask for special clearance and they likely won’t give it to you because you’d end up cutting off someone else who’s on an extended final. Often, we don’t even start down from pattern altitude until we’re already on final, after we’ve slowed to 60 knots and set flaps 30, because ATC sent us so far downwind.

Agree with lots of folks here stating “it’s easy” in a GA plane IRL. It does depend but I haven’t heard anyone state “positive static / dynamic stability” so I’ll mention it here.

Many GA aircraft have this and it contributes to why a given aircraft can be easier to trim. It naturally wants to get back to a state of equilibrium. I can speak for the 172 that I fly - in smooth to smooth-ish air, it’s almost a hands-off affair and trimming is very easy. I have always found MSFS 172 much more difficult than the real thing.


I don’t know if I am a better pilot or not, have not flown with you. But I think I had better CFIs and mentor pilots at least in that aspect.
If you have to add power to make the runway, think about what would happen should the engine decide to cough. So I would consider adding flaps later, when you actually want to slow down further, if ATC sends you out in the weeds.
I have made a deadstick landing, with no harm done to anyone or anything, because I was taught that lesson very early on. Conserve energy as much as possible.

As I said aviation is a very fluid environment, no two flights are going to be exactly the same. And if, as in your example, someone else is adding a variable beyond your control, you have to adjust your actions.
L67 was untowered, but in the SoCal airspace hardly in Podunk nowhere. Up to the end there was lots of activity and with WestPac on the field it was not uncommon to share the pattern with a couple P-47s and/or a B25. My second solo was with 5 P-47s, the B25 and a C53 all coming into the pattern.


Answering OP’s question (not referencing any other posts which go into some great detail about how trim works):

If you have enough practice and know how your aircraft reacts to trim in different phases of flight (and know your power settings for each phase) - It is very easy to trim a small aircraft in real life. I trim the Arrow for pretty much hands-off flying in climb-out and on approach. Same with cruise. In cruise, I trim for straight and level before the AP gets turned on since I don’t have electric trim and the AP yells at me if the airplane is out of trim :rofl: . It’s pretty easy to feel if you are applying too much pressure to the yoke. If so - trim off pressure.

Only single engine piston aircraft I have flown in the sim that comes close to the actual feeling of accurately trimming off yoke pressure is the A2A Comanche.


With trimming so essential to proper flight, I hope Asobo learn from A2A for MSFS 2024.

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Short answer: trimming IRL is way easier. But even in trimmed state, turbulence IRL makes your Alt/VS indicator go up and down much more. (You really don’t want that simulated 1 on 1 at home on your monitor or VR headset)

I guess a good force feedback stick would make trimming in MSFS much easier.

I’ve only had an hour at the controls of a GA aircraft, but remain convinced that the main reason trimming is difficult in the sim is that the control inputs have been terribly implemented.

Have explained my reasoning behind this in several other topics, can’t be bothered repeating it again.

Just remember, outside of emulating the center of tension using force feedback, it can’t be implemented properly. Consider how anti-servo tabs work, the entire purpose of which is to make it feel heavier to manipulate and overcontrol an aircraft with an all-moving stabilator, for example.

Everything is a workaround.

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I linked to a much longer explanation of mine explaining the principles of trim and tail-down force. I find it easier to do that than to re-write it every time the topic comes up.


I get all that, but think it’s correct to say that in terms of MSFS the ‘centre of tension’ is simply the stick or yoke’s neutral position and it just never changes. I don’t think that has any relevance on how easy or difficult it should be to trim the aircraft in pitch.

Despite saying I wouldn’t repeat myself, Asobo have quite ridiculously coded the sim so that every button (joystick, gamepad or whatever) or key press behaves like a standard windows keyboard input. They have a fixed duration, then when held, a pause followed by repeats. This simply doesn’t offer the fidelity required to trim properly.

Here’s a straightforward analogy: Your TV might have a volume range of 1-100 and you want to set it to 53. Unfortunately, no matter how briefly you tap the remote the smallest achievable difference is 5. You can obviously therefore set it to 50 or 55, but never the level you actually want. That pretty much sums up trim in MSFS as far as I’m concerned.

I understand that. In terms of granularity, it’s difficult to assess how much input should affect how much output. Devs have been working around that for a long time, offering sliders that change the scalar. The button-hold-down trim operation is wrong, for sure.

But I don’t really have problems trimming. Maybe I’m just used to it. If I’m using buttons, I do single button presses in succession, which makes it predictable. I also have a trim wheel set to that axis and it works pretty darn well. But without the aerodynamic pressure, small displacements of the yoke (an old CH which really doesn’t completely center) will diverge from stability, anyway, which isn’t quite how it works in real life.

But in real life, it’s also never quite 100% in trim anyway. There are always small adjustments, generally using the aerodynamically heavy yoke.

What I’m getting at is yes, there are some basic issues, but there is also a VERY wide range of controllers out there and YMMV.

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That’s is the key issue in MSFS - lack of a flight model that models these stability factors correctly.

A2A uses an external Fight model that they 100% control, so have a good opportunity to get it modeled correctly, or at least far better than MSFS.

It also helps that A2A has Developers who are pilots who are very familiar with the plane they are developing… Asobo not so much …

Agree - The A2A Comanche nails it. It’s one of the best handling planes on the platform at the moment.

Not wanting to derail the thread, but I find the Comanche so much easier to hand fly than pretty much anything else in the sim. At times it feels like it’s on rails. I often wondered if that was realistic or not.

Is it a case that Asobo have made things more twitchy to cater for gamers rather than sim / realism?

I think it’s more an over-reliance on the aerodynamic algorithms that make up the “wind tunnel” modeling. Don’t get me wrong, it’s novel, and it works fairly well in most regards for a consumer-level sim. But there are so many granular things that either aren’t taken into account or just normalized versus the chaos of true fluid dynamics and physics. And the SDK is constantly changing, so developers are constantly chasing the target (with some outright letting older models become abandonware).

From the get-go, there were glaring issues (think wheel behavior and the impact on ground ops), and some behaviors still haven’t been clarified, which causes some shops like A2A to work around it with their own code running in the background. That said, major kudos to Asobo for listening to devs, engineers, and pilots who voiced concerns, and continuing to work it out.

But remember in the end that there is a HUGE range of control setups, levels of user ability, sim settings, and other parameters that can create different experiences. That means devs have to shoot for center mass and not cater to the small percentage of people who have rw experience and proper setups. So you have to take it all with a grain of salt. Fly the sim as you would any unknown-to-you airplane, get to know its idiosyncrasies, and don’t expect it to behave exactly like or carry over to the real thing (but close enough) and you should be okay.


I think it was you who once wrote in these forums that the aircraft in MSFS don’t fly like THE real airplane, but they do fly like AN airplane. That comment has stuck with me because it is very true.


Yeah, that’s a mantra I often repeat. Fly it like a plane, but maybe not the plane. I figure most models and systems are about 90-95% accurate and unless there’s a glaring error (like taking a stock Cub up to FL200) that’s good enough for me to handwaive the rest. Where I lose the most immersion is the airport visuals, but I digress…

With regard to sim aircraft, control setups are the biggest variable and any specific “feel the plane” advice I give to one person won’t apply to the next. And control feel in the sim is an entirely subjective, moot point anyway, because it doesn’t and will likely never feel like the real plane to 99% of users. Most of us are using the same controls for a 737 as a 172 :joy:.

And that said, if you’re cognizant of the differences, it shouldn’t have an impact with negative transfer - for example, I have no problem going back and forth between the sim and a real 172, despite the differences. I just caution real-world students who are already so task saturated that they might not be able to overcome negative transfer that they don’t even know is happening.

So yes, do some pilot stuff. Treat it like a plane, but let’s be real about our expectations. Our blood pressure and our abilities will be better off for it.