“Recognize and React” (R&R) is a teaching and learning method that most sailplane instructors use even if they don't formally call it by that name.  As instructors we want to teach our students to fly safely by recognizing potential problems and reacting correctly to solve them.  For example, in the early stages of training we try to get the student to fly straight and level at a constant attitude (airspeed).   We want the student to learn to recognize when the nose of the sailplane begins to drop and to react by pulling back slightly on the stick or to recognize when the nose starts to rise and to react by pushing forward slightly on the stick.  We also want the student to learn to recognize when a wing begins to drop and to react by moving the stick left or right in order to get the wings level again.  Each and every phase of training involves “Recognize and React”.  As instructors we are always evaluating our students based on R&R.  That is, we determine if the student recognizes a change is airspeed and reacts according to correct it or recognizes that he is getting too low in the traffic pattern and reacts to correct it.  We are also evaluating how fast this recognition and reaction takes place.  We only move to the next phase of training when we are satisfied that the R&R is taking place correctly and on a timely basis.


As instructors we need to be very careful that both pieces of R&R are taking place.  Many times a student will recognize a problem but not move to the react step.  Or the student's react step will not be the correct one.  For example, a student will recognize that he is getting low in the traffic pattern and will even tell you so.  However, he will not react by pushing the spoilers forward when they are open (back) but rather will slowly start pulling back on the stick.


You are getting low in the pattern.  React


You are too fast.  React


You are in a right turn and are skidding.  React


You see the tow plane rock its wings.  React


You see the tow plane wag the rudder while you are in flight.  React


You are too slow on final.  React


You can then make the situations more complex. For example let's go back to the first situation.  “You are getting low in the pattern.”  The reaction I am looking for is that the left hand will go forward on the spoilers.  If I get that reaction I then might say “You are still to low for the pattern.” The reaction I am looking for is the student moving the stick and rudder to indicate turning the base leg early.  I would also want the student to verbalize his/her intentions so that I would know for sure what the student is trying to do.


If the student cannot react correctly on the ground he certainly will not do so under stress in the air.  Also, remember this ground training is only the “react” portion as you are giving the “recognize” portion.  The “recognize” portion of the training can only be done in the air.


R&R is a very useful teaching and learning method.  As both instructors and students we each need to think about both steps of R&R.  Not recognizing a problem is bad.  However, recognizing a problem but not reacting correctly is just as bad.  Think about R&R in your next training session.  It just might help make the session more productive.


Fly Safely,



Frank Reid