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Your Guide To Flying Commercial Steep Turns

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Learning to fly perfect commercial steep turns? Follow these steps...

Review: Flying Steep Turns

If you can fly private pilot steep turns, with just a little practice you can fly commercial steep turns. To start, we'll review the flight skills required to fly perfect steep turns, every time...

The ACS Requirements

Here's what the Commercial ACS outlines for successful steep turns:

  • Clear the area.
  • Establish the manufacturer's recommended airspeed; or if one is not available, an airspeed not to exceed Va.
  • Roll into a coordinated 360° steep turn with approximately a 50° bank.
  • Perform the Task in the opposite direction.
  • Maintain the entry altitude ±100 feet, airspeed ±10 knots, bank ±5°, and roll out on the entry heading ±10°.

Flying The Maneuver

Pick a heading that's easy to remember (North, South, East or West). If there's a grid pattern on the ground to use as a visual aid, even better.

Next, clear the airspace with two 90-degree turns, while scanning for nearby traffic.

Once you're established on your heading and ready to start, begin rolling into the turn (unless your examiner specifies which way to start turning, you can choose right or left).

As your bank angle increases, your vertical component of lift decreases, and the horizontal component increases. Because you need to maintain altitude, add back pressure on the yoke to compensate for the decrease in vertical lift.

As you add back pressure to maintain altitude, you generate more total lift, which also increases drag. In most aircraft, you'll need to slightly increase power to compensate for the drag increase, so that you maintain your specified airspeed throughout the turn.

As you reach 50° of bank, look out the wind screen and find where the horizon intersects your panel. Maintain that sight picture, while periodically scanning your instruments, and you'll hold your turn perfectly.

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Using trim can be a big help to relieve back pressure during your steep turn. If you choose to use trim, one or two flicks of the trim wheel are typically all you'll need. By using trim, you'll lighten the required control pressure and you won't tire yourself out.

However, if you do use trim in your turns, be careful to avoid ballooning on your roll out. If you forget to take trim out when you roll out of your turn, you'll need a lot of forward pressure to prevent yourself from ballooning through your altitude.

When you're roughly 10-15° from your roll out heading, smoothly start to roll wings level, decrease back pressure to maintain altitude, and reduce power to your original setting.

Then, fly the exact same turn in the opposite direction.

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Additional Tips

When you're established in a steep turn, your outer wing moves slightly faster through the air than your inner wing. This creates asymmetric lift, causing the aircraft to exhibit an over-banking tendency. You may need opposite aileron in the turn to maintain your bank angle, and prevent over-banking.

Steep turns to the left require less right rudder, because the left turning tendencies and right adverse yaw counteract each other. However, steep turns to the right are the exact opposite. You'll need slightly more right rudder.

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Differences: Private Pilot vs. Commercial Pilot Steep Turns

There are a few noticeable differences between private pilot and commercial pilot steep turns. The most obvious is that commercial steep turns are flown at 50° bank, where private steep turns are flown at 45° of bank.

This changes a few things. Load factor is increased, meaning you'll feel more G-loading than the 45° turn. More back-pressure will be required to maintain altitude, and more power will be required to maintain airspeed.

The airplane's overbanking tendency will also be more pronounced, so you'll have to use more opposite aileron to maintain bank angle.

Adjusting To Commercial Steep Turns

With a little practice, transitioning to commercial steep turns is pretty easy. Just keep differences between the maneuvers in mind:

  • You need more back pressure to maintain altitude at 50° bank
  • You need more power to maintain airspeed at 50° bank
  • Trim helps relieve back pressure, but don't forget to remove trim as you roll wings-level.

Have Any More Tips?

What other tips do you have for pilots learning to fly commercial steep turns? Tell us in the comments below.

Swayne Martin

Swayne is an editor at Boldmethod, certified flight instructor, and an Embraer 145 First Officer for a regional airline. He graduated as an aviation major from the University of North Dakota in 2018, holds a PIC Type Rating for Cessna Citation Jets (CE-525), and is a former pilot for Mokulele Airlines. He's the author of articles, quizzes and lists on Boldmethod every week. You can reach Swayne at swayne@boldmethod.com, and follow his flying adventures on his YouTube Channel.

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