December 2009 Issue

Real-World Steep Turns

After the checkride, you still need to know how to fly in and out of a steep turn, and what’s happening while you’re there.

I spent a weekend recently helping prepare a pilot for his commercial pilot practical test. He is a long-time instrument pilot and highly experienced in his turbocharged Beech Bonanza. One of the hardest parts of his training was getting him to bank beyond a standard-rate turn—everything he’d practiced for years involved making small control inputs, and he needed to regain comfort with the more dynamic maneuvering required for the test. As we practiced steep turns, getting closer and closer to halving the minimum practical test tolerances, the question came up: Besides demonstration of a "circus trick" in order to earn his commercial certificate, what is the purpose of performing steep turns? It’s a good question many students and rated pilots ask, and one deserving a detailed response.

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