Standard Rate Turns

A standard rate turn is one in which the pilot will do a complete 360° circle in 2 minutes or 3 degrees per second. A standard rate turn, although always 3 degrees per second, requires higher angles of bank as airspeed increases. To enter a standard rate level turn, apply coordinated aileron and rudder pressures in the desired direction of turn. Pilots commonly roll into turns at a much too rapid rate. During initial training in turns, base control pressures on the rate of cross-check and interpretation. Maneuvering an airplane faster than the capability to keep up with the changes in instrument indications only creates the need to make corrections.A rule of thumb to determine the approximate angle of bank required for a standard rate turn is to use 15 percent of the true airspeed. A simple way to determine this amount is to divide the airspeed by 10 and add one-half the result. For example, at 100 knots, approximately 15° of bank is required (100 ÷ 10 = 10 + 5 = 15); at 120 knots, approximately 18° of bank is needed for a standard rate turn.

On the roll-in, use the attitude indicator to establish the approximate angle of bank, and then check the turn coordinator’s miniature aircraft for a standard rate turn indication or the aircraft’s turn-and-bank indicator. Maintain the bank for this rate of turn, using the turn coordinator’s miniature aircraft as the primary bank reference and the attitude indicator as the supporting bank instrument. [Figure 1] Note the exact angle of bank shown on the banking scale of the attitude indicator when the turn coordinator indicates a standard rate turn.

Turns of Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers Using Analog Instrumentation
Figure 1. Standard rate turn, constant airspeed

During the roll-in, check the altimeter, VSI, and attitude indicator for the necessary pitch adjustments as the vertical lift component decreases with an increase in bank. If constant airspeed is to be maintained, the ASI becomes primary for power, and the throttle must be adjusted as drag increases. As the bank is established, trim off the pressures applied during pitch and power changes.

To recover to straight-and-level flight, apply coordinated aileron and rudder pressures opposite to the direction of the turn. Strive for the same rate of roll-out used to roll into the turn; fewer problems are encountered in estimating the lead necessary for roll-out on exact headings, especially on partial panel maneuvers. Upon initiation of the turn recovery, the attitude indicator becomes the primary bank instrument. When the airplane is approximately level, the heading indicator is the primary bank instrument as in straight-and-level flight. Pitch, power, and trim adjustments are made as changes in vertical lift component and airspeed occur. The ball should be checked throughout the turn, especially if control pressures are held rather than trimmed off.

Some airplanes are very stable during turns, requiring only slight trim adjustments that permit hands-off flight while the airplane remains in the established attitude. Other airplanes require constant, rapid cross-check and control during turns to correct overbanking tendencies. Due to the interrelationship of pitch, bank, and airspeed deviations during turns, cross-check must be fast in order to prevent an accumulation of errors.

Turns to Predetermined Headings

As long as an airplane is in a coordinated bank, it continues to turn. Thus, the roll-out to a desired heading must be started before the heading is reached. The amount of lead varies with the relationship between the rate of turn, angle of bank, and rate of recovery. For small heading changes, use a bank angle that does not exceed the number of degrees to be turned. Lead the desired heading by one-half the number of degrees of bank used. For example, if a 10° bank is used during a change in heading, start the roll-out 5 degrees before reaching the desired heading. For larger changes in heading, the amount of lead varies since the angle of bank for a standard rate turn varies with the true airspeed.

Practice with a lead of one-half the angle of bank until the precise lead a given technique requires is determined. If rates of roll-in and roll-out are consistent, the precise amount of lead suitable to a particular roll-out technique can be determined.

Timed Turns

A timed turn is a turn in which the clock and the turn coordinator are used to change heading by a specific number of degrees in a given time. For example, in a standard rate turn (3 degrees per second), an airplane turns 45° in 15 seconds; in a half standard rate turn, the airplane turns 45° in 30 seconds.

Prior to performing timed turns, the turn coordinator should be calibrated to determine the accuracy of its indications. [Figure 2] Establish a standard rate turn as indicated by the turn coordinator, and as the sweep-second hand of the clock passes a cardinal point (12, 3, 6, 9), check the heading on the heading indicator. While holding the indicated rate of turn constant, note the indicated heading changes at 10 second intervals. If the airplane turns more than or less than 30° in that interval, a respectively larger or smaller deflection of the miniature aircraft of the turn coordinator is necessary to produce a standard rate turn. After calibrating the turn coordinator during turns in each direction, note the corrected deflections, if any, and apply them during all timed turns.

Turns of Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers Using Analog Instrumentation
Figure 2. Turn coordinator calibration

The same cross-check and control technique is used in making a timed turn that is used to execute turns to predetermined headings, except the clock is substituted for the heading indicator. The miniature aircraft of the turn coordinator is primary for bank control, the altimeter is primary for pitch control, and the ASI is primary for power control. Start the roll-in when the clock’s second hand passes a cardinal point, hold the turn at the calibrated standard rate indication (or half-standard rate for small heading changes), and begin the roll-out when the computed number of seconds has elapsed. If the rates of roll-in and roll-out are the same, the time taken during entry and recovery does not need to be considered in the time computation.

Practice timed turns with a full instrument panel and check the heading indicator for the accuracy of turns. If the turns are executed without the gyro heading indicator, use the magnetic compass at the completion of the turn to check turn accuracy, taking compass deviation errors into consideration.

Compass Turns

In most small airplanes, the magnetic compass is the only direction-indicating instrument independent of other airplane instruments and power sources. Because of its operating characteristics, called compass errors, pilots are prone to use it only as a reference for setting the heading indicator, but knowledge of magnetic compass characteristics permits full use of the instrument to turn the airplane to correct and maintain headings.

Remember the following points when making turns to magnetic compass headings or when using the magnetic compass as a reference for setting the heading indicator:

  1. If on a north heading and a turn is started to the east or west, the compass indication lags or indicates a turn in the opposite direction.
  2. If on a south heading and a turn is started toward the east or west, the compass indication precedes the turn, indicating a greater amount of turn than is actually occurring.
  3. When on an east or west heading, the compass indicates correctly when starting a turn in either direction.
  4. If on an east or west heading, acceleration results in a north turn indication; deceleration results in a south turn indication.
  5. When maintaining a north or south heading, no error results from diving, climbing, or changing airspeed.

With an angle of bank between 15° and 18°, the amount of lead or lag to be used when turning to northerly or southerly headings varies with, and is approximately equal to, the latitude of the locality over which the turn is being made. When turning to a heading of north, the lead for roll-out must include the number of degrees of change of latitude, plus the lead normally used in recovery from turns. During a turn to a south heading, maintain the turn until the compass passes south the number of degrees of latitude, minus normal rollout lead. [Figure 3]

Turns of Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers Using Analog Instrumentation
Figure 3. North and south turn error

For example, when turning from an easterly direction to north, where the latitude is 30°, start the roll-out when the compass reads 37° (30° plus one-half the 15° angle of bank, or whatever amount is appropriate for the rate of roll-out). When turning from an easterly direction to south, start the roll-out when the magnetic compass reads 203° (180° plus 30° minus one-half the angle of bank). When making similar turns from a westerly direction, the appropriate points at which to begin the roll-out would be 323° for a turn to north and 157° for a turn to south.

When turning to a heading of east or west from a northerly direction, start the roll-out approximately 10° to 12° before the east or west indication is reached. When turning to an east or west heading from a southerly direction, start the rollout approximately 5 degrees before the east or west indication is reached. When turning to other headings, the lead or lag must be interpolated.

Abrupt changes in attitude or airspeed and the resulting erratic movements of the compass card make accurate interpretations of the instrument very difficult. Proficiency in compass turns depends on knowledge of compass characteristics, smooth control technique, and accurate bank-and-pitch control.

Steep Turns

For purposes of instrument flight training in conventional airplanes, any turn greater than a standard rate is considered steep. [Figure 4] The exact angle of bank at which a normal turn becomes steep is unimportant. What is important is learning to control the airplane with bank attitudes in excess of those normally used on instruments. Practicing steep turns will not only increase proficiency in the basic instrument flying skills, but also enable smooth, quick, and confident reactions to unexpected abnormal flight attitudes under instrument flight conditions.

Turns of Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers Using Analog Instrumentation
Figure 4. Steep left turn

Pronounced changes occur in the effects of aerodynamic forces on aircraft control at progressively greater bank attitudes. Skill in cross-check, interpretation, and control is increasingly necessary in proportion to the amount of these changes, though the techniques for entering, maintaining, and recovering from the turn are the same in principle for steep turns as for shallower turns.

Enter a steep turn in the same way as a shallower turn, but prepare to cross-check rapidly as the turn steepens. Because of the greatly reduced vertical lift component, pitch control is usually the most difficult aspect of this maneuver. Unless immediately noted and corrected with a pitch increase, the loss of vertical lift results in rapid movement of the altimeter, vertical speed, and airspeed needles. The faster the rate of bank change, the more suddenly the lift changes occur. If a cross-check is fast enough to note the immediate need for pitch changes, smooth, steady back-elevator pressure will maintain constant altitude. However, overbanking to excessively steep angles without adjusting pitch as the bank changes occur requires increasingly stronger elevator pressure. The loss of vertical lift and increase in wing loading finally reach a point at which further application of back-elevator pressure tightens the turn without raising the nose.

How does a pilot recognize overbanking and low pitch attitude? What should a pilot do to correct them? If a rapid downward movement of the altimeter needle or vertical speed needle, together with an increase in airspeed, is observed despite application of back elevator pressure, the airplane is in a diving spiral. [Figure 5] Immediately shallow the bank with smooth and coordinated aileron and rudder pressures, hold or slightly relax elevator pressure, and increase the crosscheck of the attitude indicator, altimeter, and VSI. Reduce power if the airspeed increase is rapid. When the vertical speed trends upward, the altimeter needle moves slower as the vertical lift increases. When the elevator is effective in raising the nose, hold the bank attitude shown on the attitude indicator and adjust elevator control pressures smoothly for the nose-high attitude appropriate to the bank maintained. If pitch control is consistently late on entries to steep turns, rollout immediately to straight-and-level flight and analyze possible errors. Practice shallower turns initially and learn the attitude changes and control responses required, then increase the banks as a quicker and more accurate cross-check and control techniques are developed.

Turns of Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers Using Analog Instrumentation
Figure 5. Diving spiral

The power necessary to maintain constant airspeed increases as the bank and drag increase. With practice, the power settings appropriate to specific bank attitudes are learned, and adjustments can be made without undue attention to airspeed and power instruments. During training in steep turns, as in any other maneuver, attend to the most important tasks first. Keep the pitch attitude relatively constant, and more time can be devoted to cross-check and instrument interpretation.

During recovery from steep turns to straight-and-level flight, elevator and power control must be coordinated with bank control in proportion to the changes in aerodynamic forces. Back elevator pressures must be released and power decreased. The common errors associated with steep turns are the same as those discussed later in this section. Remember, errors are more exaggerated, more difficult to correct, and more difficult to analyze unless rates of entry and recovery are consistent with the level of proficiency in the three basic instrument flying skills.

Climbing and Descending Turns

To execute climbing and descending turns, combine the technique used in straight climbs and descents with the various turn techniques. The aerodynamic factors affecting lift and power control must be considered in determining power settings, and the rate of cross-check and interpretation must be increased to enable control of bank as well as pitch changes.

Change of Airspeed During Turns

Changing airspeed during turns is an effective maneuver for increasing proficiency in all three basic instrument skills. Since the maneuver involves simultaneous changes in all components of control, proper execution requires rapid cross-check and interpretation as well as smooth control. Proficiency in the maneuver also contributes to confidence in the instruments during attitude and power changes involved in more complex maneuvers. Pitch and power control techniques are the same as those used during changes in airspeed in straight-and-level flight.

The angle of bank necessary for a given rate of turn is proportional to the true airspeed. Since the turns are executed at a standard rate, the angle of bank must be varied in direct proportion to the airspeed change in order to maintain a constant rate of turn. During a reduction of airspeed, decrease the angle of bank and increase the pitch attitude to maintain altitude and a standard rate turn.

The altimeter and turn coordinator indications should remain constant throughout the turn. The altimeter is primary for pitch control and the miniature aircraft of the turn coordinator is primary for bank control. The manifold pressure gauge (or tachometer) is primary for power control while the airspeed is changing. As the airspeed approaches the new indication, the ASI becomes primary for power control.

Two methods of changing airspeed in turns may be used. In the first method, airspeed is changed after the turn is established. [Figure 6] In the second method, the airspeed change is initiated simultaneously with the turn entry. The first method is easier, but regardless of the method used, the rate of crosscheck must be increased as power is reduced. As the airplane decelerates, check the altimeter and VSI for necessary pitch changes and the bank instruments for required bank changes.

Turns of Airplane Basic Flight Maneuvers Using Analog Instrumentation
Figure 6. Change of airspeed during turn

If the miniature aircraft of the turn coordinator indicates a deviation from the desired deflection, adjust the bank. Adjust pitch attitude to maintain altitude. When approaching the desired airspeed, pitch attitude becomes primary for power control and the manifold pressure gauge (or tachometer) is adjusted to maintain the desired airspeed. Trim is important throughout the maneuver to relieve control pressures.

Until control technique is very smooth, frequent cross-check of the attitude indicator is essential to prevent overcontrolling and to provide approximate bank angles appropriate to the changing airspeeds.

Common Errors in Turns


Pitch errors result from the following faults:

  1. Preoccupation with bank control during turn entry and recovery. If 5 seconds are required to roll into a turn, check the pitch instruments as bank pressures are initiated. If bank control pressure and rate of bank change are consistent, a sense of the time required for an attitude change is developed. During the interval, check pitch, power, and trim—as well as bank—controlling the total attitude instead of one factor at a time.
  2. Failure to understand or remember the need for changing the pitch attitude as the vertical lift component changes, resulting in consistent loss of altitude during entries.
  3. Changing the pitch attitude before it is necessary. This fault is very likely if a cross-check is slow and rate of entry too rapid. The error occurs during the turn entry due to a mechanical and premature application of back-elevator control pressure.
  4. Overcontrolling the pitch changes. This fault commonly occurs with the previous error.
  5. Failure to properly adjust the pitch attitude as the vertical lift component increases during the roll-out, resulting in consistent gain in altitude on recovery to headings.
  6. Failure to trim during turn entry and following turn recovery (if turn is prolonged).
  7. Failure to maintain straight-and-level cross-check after roll-out. This error commonly follows a perfectly executed turn.
  8. Erratic rates of bank change on entry and recovery, resulting from failure to cross-check the pitch instruments with a consistent technique appropriate to the changes in lift.


Bank and heading errors result from the following faults:

  1. Overcontrolling, resulting in overbanking upon turn entry, overshooting and undershooting headings, as well as aggravated pitch, airspeed, and trim errors.
  2. Fixation on a single bank instrument. On a 90° change of heading, for example, leave the heading indicator out of the cross-check for approximately 20 seconds after establishing a standard rate turn, since at 3° per second the turn will not approach the lead point until that time has elapsed. Make the cross-check selective, checking only what needs to be checked at the appropriate time.
  3. Failure to check for precession of the horizon bar following recovery from a turn. If the heading indicator shows a change in heading when the attitude indicator shows level flight, the airplane is turning. If the ball is centered, the attitude gyro has precessed; if the ball is not centered, the airplane may be in a slipping or skidding turn. Center the ball with rudder pressure, check the attitude indicator and heading indicator, stop the heading change if it continues, and retrim.
  4. Failure to use the proper degree of bank for the amount of heading change desired. Rolling into a 20° bank for a heading change of 10° will normally overshoot the heading. Use the bank attitude appropriate to the amount of heading change desired.
  5. Failure to remember the heading to which the aircraft is being turned. This fault is likely when rushing the maneuver.
  6. Turning in the wrong direction, due to misreading or misinterpreting the heading indicator, or to confusion regarding the location of points on the compass. Turn in the shortest direction to reach a given heading, unless there is a specific reason to turn the long way around. Study the compass rose and visualize at least the positions of the eight major points around the azimuth. A number of methods can be used to make quick computations for heading changes. For example, to turn from a heading of 305° to a heading of 110°, would a pilot turn right or left for the shortest way around? Subtracting 200 from 305 and adding 20, gives 125° as the reciprocal of 305°; therefore, execute the turn to the right. Likewise, to figure the reciprocal of a heading less than 180°, add 200 and subtract 20. Computations are done more quickly using multiples of 100s and 10s than by adding or subtracting 180° from the actual heading; therefore, the method suggested above may save time and confusion.
  7. Failure to check the ball of the turn coordinator when interpreting the instrument for bank information. If the roll rate is reduced to zero, the miniature aircraft of the turn coordinator indicates only direction and rate of turn. Unless the ball is centered, do not assume the turn is resulting from a banked attitude.


Power and airspeed errors result from the following faults:

  1. Failure to cross-check the ASI as pitch changes are made.
  2. Erratic use of power control. This may be due to improper throttle friction control, inaccurate throttle settings, chasing the airspeed readings, abrupt or overcontrolled pitch-and-bank changes, or failure to recheck the airspeed to note the effect of a power adjustment.
  3. Poor coordination of throttle control with pitch-and-bank changes associated with slow cross-check or failure to understand the aerodynamic factors related to turns.


Trim errors result from the following faults:

  1. Failure to recognize the need for a trim change due to slow cross-check and interpretation. For example, a turn entry at a rate too rapid for a cross-check leads to confusion in cross-check and interpretation with resulting tension on the controls.
  2. Failure to understand the relationship between trim and attitude/power changes.
  3. Chasing the vertical speed needle. Overcontrolling leads to tension and prevents sensing the pressures to be trimmed off.
  4. Failure to trim following power changes.

Errors During Compass Turns

In addition to the faults discussed above, the following errors connected with compass turns should be noted:

  1. Faulty understanding or computation of lead and lag.
  2. Fixation on the compass during the roll-out. Until the airplane is in straight-and-level unaccelerated flight, it is unnecessary to read the indicated heading. Accordingly, after the roll-out, cross-check for straight-and-level flight before checking the accuracy of the turn.