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Should You Use Trim In A Steep Turn?


It's something you've probably heard, or maybe even asked yourself: should you trim in a steep turn?

And now with the new Private Pilot ACS, it directly addresses trim, sort of. Take a look below. It doesn't say you should or shouldn't trim in a steep turn, but instead that you understand what trim does in a steep turn.

So whether you're learning to fly, teaching people to fly, or just trying to keep your skills sharp, the question is still the same: should you trim in a steep turn?

First off, trimming your plane is almost always a good idea. It helps relieve your control inputs, keeps your plane going in the direction you want it to, and helps keeps your passengers from using their sick-sacks in flight (you remembered to pack those, right?!).

But steep turns aren't normal, every day wings-level flying. They're a specific maneuver intended to help you understand how your plane behaves when your wings aren't level. And things like attitude control, accelerated stall, overbanking tendency, AOA/load factor, and power requirements are all part of the mix when you're executing a steep turn.

And hopefully by learning all of those things, you'll recognize what your plane can, and can't, do when you get into a situation that could require a lot of bank, like a tight base-to-final turn.

So should you use trim to help yourself on your next steep turn? Before you decide, it helps to understand the most common problems when it comes to steep turns, and then figure out if trim will help you eliminate them.

Problem 1: Over Controlling The Turn

Over controlling is one of the biggest problems in steep turns. If you over control, you'll be constantly chasing airspeed and altitude, and your flight path will look like a yo-yo.


If you could look over your own shoulder, you'd see large control inputs on the yoke, moving back and forth. And that's typically because you need a reasonable amount of back pressure to keep the nose up and to maintain altitude in your steep turn.

If your controls are really heavy in a steep turn, it's harder to hold them in the "sweet spot" and keep your altitude pegged. And in that case, if you add a little trim, you'll relieve some of the control load, and you'll be able to make lighter, more accurate control inputs.

Problem 2: Slow Descending

When you enter a steep turn, you need to increase back pressure (and AOA) to keep your vertical component of lift the same as it was when you were wings level. And you need to keep holding it, for 360 degrees of turn.

If you start decreasing that back pressure, or if you don't get enough in right away, your altitude will start trickling away.


If you find yourself doing this, trim can be a handy way to keep altitude bleed from happing in the first place. Just like over-controlling, your trim doesn't have to be perfect. By relieving some of your back pressure with trim, you can make more accurate control inputs, and keep yourself on altitude.

Problem 3: The Big Balloon On Exit

The first two problems are related to not using enough trim, but the third problem is usually a result of using trim.

So what happens? When you're settled into your steep turn and you trim, you're configured for 45 degrees of bank at your relatively high AOA. And if you don't take trim out when you roll out of your turn, you need a lot of forward pressure to keep yourself and your plane from rocketing skyward.


To solve this, start rolling trim out as you begin rolling wings level, and remember that you are still going to have to release that back pressure you needed in your turn. Do both, and you'll roll out perfectly on your altitude.

What Works Best For You?

So should you use trim in your steep turns? The answer is: it's really up to you. For some people, it makes the difference between a constant struggle and being able to peg their altitude and speed throughout the turn.

The next time you're up on a flight, try both ways. With a little practice, you'll have your best technique down, and you'll be flying the best steep turns of your life.

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at

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