The airplane is designed so that the primary flight controls (rudder, aileron, and elevator) are streamlined with the nonmovable airplane surfaces when the airplane is cruising straight-and-level at normal weight and loading. If the airplane is flying out of that basic balanced condition, one or more of the control surfaces is going to have to be held out of its streamlined position by continuous control input. The use of trim tabs relieves the pilot of this requirement.
Proper trim technique is a very important and often overlooked basic flying skill. An improperly trimmed airplane requires constant control pressures, produces pilot tension and fatigue, distracts the pilot from scanning, and contributes to abrupt and erratic airplane attitude control.
Because of their relatively low power and speed, not all light airplanes have a complete set of trim tabs that are adjustable from the cockpit. In airplanes where rudder, aileron, and elevator trim are available, a definite sequence of trim application should be used. Elevator/stabilator should be trimmed first to relieve the need for control pressure to maintain constant airspeed/pitch attitude. Attempts to trim the rudder at varying airspeed are impractical in propeller driven airplanes because of the change in the torque correcting offset of the vertical fin. Once a constant airspeed/pitch attitude has been established, the pilot should hold the wings level with aileron pressure while rudder pressure is trimmed out. Aileron trim should then be adjusted to relieve any lateral control yoke pressure.
A common trim control error is the tendency to overcontrol the airplane with trim adjustments. To avoid this the pilot must learn to establish and hold the airplane in the desired attitude using the primary flight controls. The proper attitude should be established with reference to the horizon and then verified by reference to performance indications on the flight instruments. The pilot should then apply trim in the above sequence to relieve whatever hand and foot pressure had been required. The pilot must avoid using the trim to establish or correct airplane attitude. The airplane attitude must be established and held first, then control pressures trimmed out so that the airplane will maintain the desired attitude in “hands off” flight. Attempting to “fly the airplane with the trim tabs” is a common fault in basic flying technique even among experienced pilots.
A properly trimmed airplane is an indication of good piloting skills. Any control pressures the pilot feels should be a result of deliberate pilot control input during a planned change in airplane attitude, not a result of pressures being applied by the airplane because the pilot is allowing it to assume control.