The Art of the Perfect Steep Turn Featured

It's practically cheating! Steep Turn Tricks



Many pilots have their own technique for how to ace the steep turn part of the practical exam and some are better than others.  If your method is working for you then by all means stick with it but if you would like to see the XLPilotStaffing.Com easy, fool proof technique, then read further.

You’ve got this!

You just made a normal IFR take off and are climbing to your assigned altitude.  The first thing you need to do is relax.  Relax that death grip you likely have on the control yoke and take a deep breath.  The harder you grip the yoke the more likely you are to over-control the airplane.  I personally like to trim until all I need are my thumb, index and middle finger on the controls.  While you probably won’t use the manual trim wheel much in the real airplane, it is definitely your friend in the Sim. Not only is it faster than the electric trim but also more precise.

Resist the urge to throttle jockey!

The next thing to focus on is power management.  The nature of the XLS is that it pitches down when you add power and up when you reduce.  Accordingly, power changes should be kept to a minimum during your steep turn. 

Here is how you can do that.  As you level off, set a different altitude in the altitude select window and deselected HDG and ALT to remove the Flight Director Command Bars.  Note the approximate N1 required to achieve the 200-knot, level speed.  This will be different depending on your weight, altitude and temperature.  For illustration purposes let’s use 63%. 

As soon as you determine this 200-knot level power setting back off the throttles and let the airspeed bleed to approximately 195.  Now add 4% to your level N1 and set the thrust to the new calculated power setting, in our case 67% N1.

Your airspeed will begin to increase and when it hits 200-knots, immediately roll to the left and stab the left point of the delta into the bottom of the zero as depicted in the photo above.  Use the manual trim wheel to take the pressure off the yoke by moving it about an inch nose up.

At this point lean back, put both hands behind your head, and ask the examiner how many of these he wants you to do.  Yes the XLS will actually fly a hands free steep turn if set up properly!

Why it works:

When you set the power at your level 200-knot N1+4% you are setting it for the increased G load of the maneuver while allowing yourself time to compensate for the corresponding nose down pitch, all prior to entering the turn.  If you begin the 45 degree bank the moment the airspeed reaches 200-knots, the increased drag of the maneuver will keep you from accelerating even with the higher power setting.  Once you trim you should be all set unless you make another power adjustment.

Fine Tuning:

Well let’s say you didn’t get the power setting or the trim just right and actually have to manipulate the controls through this maneuver.  What is great about this technique is the scan is so simple.  Referring to the photo above you can see that everything you need to know is in one horizontal line.  Starting at the left of the ADI you see airspeed.  Moving directly to the right you see the point of the delta stabbed into the bottom of the zero.  Further right you see the altitude and finally the vertical speed.  It can’t get any easier than that!

If you find you are not holding your 200-knot airspeed, make sure you have the correct bank then adjust the power slightly on just ONE throttle.  This allows for a finer, more manageable correction with far less pitch/bank upset. If trim was adjusted properly in the beginning re-adjustment should not be necessary.

But you’re not out of the woods yet.

Your next task will be to roll out on the assigned heading and change direction.   To do this all you need to be aware of is 10 degrees prior to your roll out heading.  While having your right seater call out 30 and 20 may make you feel better, all you really need to hear is 10.  When you hear that magic number, immediately roll quickly to the right, keeping the VSI at zero and stab the bottom of the 1 as depicted below.




Let the airplane settle in, then loosen your grip on the yoke.  The plane should be properly trimmed and you can sit back until you hear the final 10 degree call out.

At 10 degrees prior, quickly roll the wings level while reducing power below the original 200-knot level N1.  You may even want to direct the SIC to set the power for you so you can focus on not ballooning above your altitude.  Control the airplane ,keeping it level, until it settles down. It will initially want to pitch up so at this point you can either increase power back to the 200-knot level N1 (the power increase will help push the nose down) and re-trim nose down, or allow the aircraft to decelerate and go right into the stall series.

Try it out on your next Recurrent or Initial and see if you don’t fly the best steep turn of your life!


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Mark Mealey

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Pilot-ol-ogy is the magazine of  XLPilotStaffing, a company created by Mark Mealey in 2013 to take the hassle out of finding a contract pilot for your flight operation.  Whether you need a contractor to fill in for vacations, training, illness, or personal reasons, XLPilotStaffing is here to help.