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6 Answers

Proper foot position on rudder/brake pedals

Asked by: 10903 views ,
Aircraft Systems, General Aviation, Private Pilot


During my training I was always taught to have the ball/toes of my foot on _either_ the lower portion of the rudder pedals (controlling the rudder/nosewhel), or the upper portion (controlling the brakes), but never both at the same time.

Using this technique and landing in a crosswind, it can be a bit "squirrly" during that period where the airplane is on rollout and the rudder must be released to allow foot repositioning to the brakes.  I was always told by my instructor that you never want to place the heel on the lower (rudder) portion, and the ball of the foot on the upper (brake) portion at the same time since brakes could inadvertently be applied during touchdown.

I recently acquired some "saitek" rudder pedals to use with my home simulator and based on their construction, it appears that they assume the user leaves their foot in a single position and uses toes to activate the brakes, and heels to move the rudder.  Was I taught wrong, or were these simulator pedals just not designed by a pilot?


6 Answers

  1. Jim Foley on Dec 28, 2010

    I too was told the same when I started flying, but i feel that is a poor position.  I too have the Saitek pedals, and that is the same position I use in real aircraft for ground movement and during takeoff and landing.  As you mentioned, there is no need to reposition feet at the last moment, therefore safer.  I do not belive there is much risk of accidentally hitting the brakes on landing, unless you really move wrong or are just not paying attention (in which case you should not be flying).  As for while in flight, I rest my heel on the floor, so I still have rudder control, but no brakes; Not like ther’re needed anyway.  I’ll just move my feet up when I’m a few miles out, so I don’t have to worry about it.  Just play around, and find out what works best for you.

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  2. Brian on Dec 28, 2010

    Hi Dan,
    I teach and use the later method mentioned. Furthermore, I push students to never rest their heels on the floor when flying, at least for primary training. However, this is mainly for the purposes remembering the rudder is there. Here are a few reasons I like the later method:
    1) Using your knees to learn rudder positioning is infinitely superior, in my opinion, to heel position. Think, if your heels are planted in a different location each time then your frame of reference changes. You can never really learn one position for one input because of this. A problem that is less likely to occur when using your knees, assuming seat position is consistent.
    2) If some pressure is kept on both feet, against the pedals, then we, as humans, have an amazing innate ability to determine if our feet are on level or uneven ground. In an airplane, the feeling of our feet being on level ground translates to no rudder input. Again, with your heels down this feeling is lost.
    3) Your quads are stronger than your calf muscles. We don’t walk around on our tip toes all day for a reason. With the exception of the ladies reading this who might do so for beauty purposes. :)
    Hope that helps,

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  3. Maggot/CFII on Dec 30, 2010

    Please see the Airplane Flying Handbook, Ch 3, Basic Flight
    Maneuvers, last para 3-1 thru first para 3-1.
    “The pilot’s feet should rest comfortably against therudder pedals. Both heels should support the weightof the feet on the cockpit floor with the ball of eachfoot touching the individual rudder pedals. The legsand feet should not be tense; they must be relaxedjust as when driving an automobile.”Ch 03.qxd 7/13/04 11:08 AM Page 3-1
    “When using the rudder pedals, pressure should beapplied smoothly and evenly by pressing with the ballof one foot. Since the rudder pedals are interconnected,and act in opposite directions, when pressure is appliedto one pedal, pressure on the other must be relaxed proportionately.When the rudder pedal must be movedsignificantly, heavy pressure changes should be madeby applying the pressure with the ball of the foot whilethe heels slide along the cockpit floor. Remember, theball of each foot must rest comfortably on the rudderpedals so that even slight pressure changes can be felt.”

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  4. Earl Kessler on Jan 17, 2011

    I am a check pilot examiner with the Civil Air Patrol. I am amazed at how many CAP aircraft have flat spots on the tires. The reason they have square tires is poor foot position. Low time pilots frequently look at the shape of the pedal and place their entire foot on all portions of the pedal. This leads to frequent landings with the brakes engaged. One landing like this and you have spent a tire. I insist that my trainees keep their feet on the lower portion of the pedals. Most runways have plenty of length and the need to brake is usually not an immediate one allowing the pilot to transition his or her feet gently and slowly to the tops of the pedals on roll-out. Remember, the original airplanes didn’t even have brakes and worked perfectly well.

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  5. Levi on Jan 24, 2011

    I too looked into simulator rudder peddals which would allow me to place my heels on the floor. Unfortunatly, neither Saitek, CH, nor Logitech desighn their rudder pedals the way us students want them. In fact, on the two latter brands, you couldn’t even if you tried because there is a rim on the pedal bottom that holds your foot in place like a cupholder holding a cup. 
    There are other models that are more realistic but they are in the 600 dollar range (Elite, ect). 
    The good news is that Saitek is coming out with a new pedal desighn which seems to allow you to put your heels on the floor. The picuture of the model is on their website, but it is not available yet for sale. It’s called Combat Rudder Pedals. See http://www.saitek.com/uk/prod/compedals.html
    Searching the forums, I found it interesting that this heel placement debate goes all the way up to Boeing and Airbus. Boeing manuals advise heels on the floor; Airbus manuals require heels on heels on the rudder.

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  6. Scott Stahl on Aug 28, 2011

    You were definitely taught correctly by your CFI, for the reasons mentioned.
    1) You can’t feel small changes in rudder pressure, nor can you effectively apply small changes in rudder pressure with your entire leg.  Keeping the balls of your feet on the rudder simultaneously allows precise rudder control and also prevents accidental brake application.
    2) I agree with Earl on the flat spotted tires.  Our flight school logs about 20,000-25,000 hours per year, and the number of flat spotted/skidded/blown tires is simply staggering.  It is typically an issue with primary students that are starting out, improperly trained students, or students learning maximum braking for the first time.  The number of blown/skidded tires we have encountered over the years as a result of improper foot placement up on the pedals during landing is also staggering.  Keep in mind that since the tire is not moving at that point, it is MUCH easier to lock the tire on initial touchdown if there is even a slight amount of braking pressure applied.
    You should practice making a smooth transition up the pedal on the rollout, rather than placing your foot all the way on the brake.  It is completely possible to do.  Also, keep in mind that other than max braking on a short field landing, you can actually usually generate enough brake pressure by simply flexing your toes or sliding your foot up only enough so that you can flex your toes.  There is seldom any need to have full leverage on the pedal, and this will also help prevent locking the tires on max braking as well.

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