The concept of seeing the nose and making it do what the pilot wants it to do is much more complex than it appears. Many pilots think they're seeing the nose, but in reality, they aren't. There's an old flight-training mantra, "You can't fix what you can't see," which alludes to, among other things, the critical nature of the ability to see exactly what's happening over, and around, the nose. However, there's a big difference between "looking" over the nose and actually "seeing" what's going on out there. It's a huge, but frustratingly subtle, difference!
Seeing And Looking: The Difference
The difference between "seeing" and "looking" is really difficult to define in a meaningful way. This is partially because those who are "seeing" are doing it instinctively, while those who aren't have zero awareness of what they're missing. They're getting by okay, but they don't realize how much better their flying would be if they were seeing the details that they're missing. This is a very difficult thing to visualize, and even more difficult to explain and teach.
Try this: Think about driving down the street. You've been watching the road carefully, so you're doing a good job of keeping the car between the white lines, and you're obeying all traffic rules and regulations. Now, after you've driven for 30 seconds or so, think back: Do you remember the cars that passed you going the other direction? More important, can you recall noticing the distance between the yellow dividing line and the oncoming car? Was the distance constant? Was it changing? Or, did your brain automatically ignore it because it didn't appear to represent a threat at that moment? You got the overall image, but no details.
Ditto for the cars at the intersections: You probably saw the cars, but did you try to guess what the car was going to do by observing the driver? Was he looking at you? Was he on the phone? Was he talking with someone in the front seat and not paying attention to you? Worse yet: Was he texting?
It's one thing to be watching the road and keeping your car on it. It's something entirely different to use the dozens of details around you to protect yourself. That's rule one in defensive driving: Use your eyes to not only control the car but to analyze what's going on around you to help in precise, safe driving.
Flying is pretty much the same: We need to "see" the details, all of them, and use them to understand what's happening, what's about to happen and what we have to change to alter the outcome.
So, What's The Trick To "Seeing" Versus "Looking"?
Movement is usually judged as being a change in position from one location to the next. In the case of judging the movement of the nose, we have to see it against the background and relate movement as it's measured by the distance from the top of the nose to the horizon. This seems easy enough to do. But it's not.
Part of the problem with the nose is that, even though it's right there in front of us, it often offers little in the way of a definitive aiming point. It has no hard feature that can act as a front sight. If it featured something like the World War I ring-and-bead machine gun sight, this whole process would be much easier. So, rather than looking at the entire nose, let's narrow our visual focus down to something about the nose that's very specific and easy to define. The top of the spinner is a good reference. Or, maybe the crack where the spinner meets the nose bowl, assuming you can see it. Or, the line of screws that hold the nose bowl to the sheet metal. We need something specific to use as if it's the front sight on a rifle.
We also need something specific to aim the nose at so we know when it's right or wrong. We need a target. That way, we're aligning two very specific points. The horizon can be a pretty specific target, but we don't want to aim at the horizon itself because it isn't always right. The point we want to aim at—and this is important—is the distance above or below the horizon that's defined by the airspeed as being the right aiming point for a specific flight regime. Glide will be one position, glide with two notches of flaps will be another, etc. Climb will be something altogether different. The important part of all of this is to visually establish the nose attitude for any given situation and visually lock onto the aim point (the distance below the horizon), and monitor any changes.
This isn't to say that we're going to have a series of predetermined aim points/nose attitudes absolutely memorized and slavishly nail our nose on those in every flying situation. That would be ideal and, with enough practice, we can do that, but most people can't because they don't fly enough. Our actual goal is to recognize that, once we've set the nose reference point on the distance below/above the horizon that yields the airspeed required for that flight situation, we're going to hold that attitude as if it's cast in concrete. In doing so, the airspeed will remain constant. However, even then, we're going to continually cross-check the airspeed to verify that something hasn't changed.
Simply put: We're trying to build in a total awareness of what the nose is doing at all times. If we're aware of changes in the nose attitude, stall/spin accidents simply won't happen.
And Then There's The Windshield/Panel Scan
We mentioned the windshield/instrument panel scan earlier. This is something that some pilots do better than others. Unfortunately, too often the emphasis is placed on what's happening on the panel, with the artificial horizon and airspeed indicator winning out over the windshield. It's important to remember that, if the nose doesn't move, neither of the other two will move either. However, it's easy to move the nose faster than either instrument, primarily the airspeed, can react. IAS will always lag so it's giving historical information.
The above is what leads pilots to "chase" the airspeed. They glue their eyes to the IAS and then pull or push until the needle is where they want it, only to discover they've overdone it. A series of up and down corrections ensues. Airspeed happens first in the windshield and should be controlled by the windshield.
To adjust the speed, set the nose at an attitude and hesitate, giving the airspeed time to stabilize. Glance at the airspeed. If it's not right, adjust the nose a tiny bit by choosing a new aim point. Hesitate. Glance at the airspeed. Continue that process, creeping up on perfect until the speed is stable and correct. Then, we notice where the nose reference sits in relation to the horizon and do our best to hold it there with occasional glances at the IAS to make sure nothing has changed. The windshield/nose is primary, the IAS, secondary.
Make the foregoing into a habit and, before long, we can intuitively put the nose extremely close to where it should be for a given flight situation. We can do this because we're seeing, not just looking.