Flight Simulator Co-Pilot

by Charles Gulick

Standard Turns

Eagle Field Training Base (Local)

North: 17408. East: 7422. Altitude: 2000. Pitch: 0.
Bank: 24. Heading: 180. Airspeed: 117.
Throttle: Cessna 20479. Throttle: Piper 21463.
Rudder: 32767. Ailerons: 32767. Flaps: 0.
Elevators: Cessna 33023. Elevators: Piper 37887.
Time: 11:30. Season: 2. Clouds: 0.
Surface Wind: 4 Kn., 270 deg.

As soon as the simulator settles down (it often takes two or three seconds for all the control interactions to get sorted out) note carefully the position of your right wing, as depicted on the turn coordinator, with respect to the little reference dot before the “R.” The wing and the dot should line up.

I'm demonstrating a standard two-minute turn, the turn you'll virtually always use when flying IFR (Instrument Flight Rules, which means there is weather up there and you had better know what you are doing if you get into it). You will also use this kind of turn when flying an ILS approach, as well as in everyday flying when you want to make a nice leisurely turn. It's also called a “standard-rate turn.”

“Two-minute turn” means that with this bank (averaging approximately 20 degrees) it will take your aircraft approximately two minutes to turn 360 degrees and, of course, one minute to reverse direction. We call the latter “doing a 180” for obvious reasons. The 180 is a very useful maneuver, for example: If you took off and flew a few miles and then remembered you left your briefcase in the hangar—or even worse, your lunch.

Now about the wing and the dot lining up on the turn coordinator display: They won't necessarily stay lined up, because the airplane tends to try to fly straight and level. But you want to be precise and keep it where it is. If the bank gets shallower, use right aileron to bring the wing back to the reference mark. Then as soon as it hits the mark, neutralize, by centering the control. Do this every time you notice in your scan that the bank has become shallower. Or if it steepens, use opposite aileron—in this case left aileron—whatever is necessary to hold the wing on the reference mark.

Note other things in relation to this turn: Your airspeed is quite steady. Your bank is depicted on the artificial horizon, agreeing with your out-the-windshield horizon. Pick some visible clue where one end or the other of the artificial horizon meets the edge of the instrument, so that you could execute a two-minute turn even if you had no bank-and-turn indicator. Note the lie of the real horizon with respect to your windshield. This is what a two-minute turn looks like.

Look again at your altitude indicator. Note that your nose is on the horizon, not below it. In combination with everything else you see, like the 2000 reading on your altimeter and the zero position of your VSI, your artificial horizon confirms that you are losing/gaining little or no altitude in the turn. And that's important.

A nice, precision, controlled level turn like this doesn't just happen. We're holding our altitude in the turn because we're holding a little back pressure on the yoke. To be exact, we are using one notch of up elevator as compared to operational neutral. You cranked in that notch when you set up the parameters for this flight. That's the only difference (other than right aileron) between this turn and straight-and-level flight. Your power setting, you'll note, is the same as it was when you were straight and level.

To experience the effect of failing to hold back pressure, even in a relatively shallow turn like this, apply a notch of down elevator. Keep your turn and bank steady. In Cessna you'll add 200–300 FPM on the down side. In Piper things go wild. The plane tries valiantly to right itself as the VSI nearly pins on 1500 FPM down and the airspeed indicator redlines. Imagine what it would be like if your bank were steeper; we'll experience that shortly.

So the rule is: On all but the shallowest and briefest turns, use back pressure—adding or subtracting it as needed—to hold your altitude. Eliminate whatever pressure you have applied as you roll out of the turn.

Speaking of rolling out, this is the ideal time to practice it. Press Recall to return to the standard two-minute turn we set up in the Editor. Fly for 10 or 15 seconds, keeping your wing on the reference dot and practicing your scanning. Then when you decide you're ready to fly straight, apply opposite aileron—the aileron opposite the direction of turn. As the airplane levels, take off the notch of back pressure and neutralize your aileron control.

Practice this for as long as you like. A good way to do it is, while you're turning, pick something on the landscape or horizon toward which you want to fly. Then try to time your rollout so that whatever you picked appears right ahead of you. Another idea is to decide on a compass heading you want to roll out on and practice it until you can nail it on the nose.

Practice the same turn to the left, too. I remember a pilot who used to fly at Totowa-Wayne who never departed the pattern. He would just rent a plane for an hour and fly the “box,” shooting takeoffs and landings. Because we flew the usual lefthand pattern there, he became an absolute expert at banking and turning left. Then one day he took some dual with an instructor and found that he went completely haywire when he was asked to make a standard turn to the right. That's a true story. (“Taking dual” is slang for dual instruction, or flying lessons. All standard aircraft that seat two or more people have dual controls, so they can be flown from either the left or right seat. The instructor flies copilot in the right seat. Students, pilots, and airline captains habitually fly the left seat. And it can be amazing how your perspective changes when you change sides.)

Now I want to show you two additional turns which we'll regard as standard, and which we'll use when flying patterns and in various normal VFR flight situations.

Enter the Editor, press Recall to reset the original parameters for this chapter, and change just one value: Set Bank to 26 and press Return. Then exit the Editor. Note that this turn is a bit steeper than the two-minute turn. Note particularly the relationship of your wing and the dot. The wing is offset a bit below, rather than in line with the dot as in the 20-degree turn. For practical purposes, we'll call this a 25-degree bank and turn.

Make the same turn, this time to the left, relating your wing and the dot next to the L just as you did in the right turn.

Now enter the Editor again, press Recall, change the Bank parameter to 333, press Return, and exit the Editor. This is a 30-degree turn, in this case to the left. Note the attitude of your wing on the turn coordinator. Then apply a touch of right aileron, and note that the turn and bank “snaps” to the 25-degree indication. Stop it there by neutralizing the aileron. Once more use right aileron, this time to decrease the bank to the standard rate turn. Again it snaps in, and you can hold it there by neutralizing the control.

Experiment with banking, and get used to the look and feel of 20-, 25-, and 30-degree turns, left and right. Note that the steeper the bank, the longer it takes to roll out. Try perfecting your rollouts so that you anticipate them by 10, 15, and 20 degrees respectively when turning to a desired heading. The pattern-flying technique I'll show you shortly uses 25- and 30-degree turns in a very specific manner and you will have an easier time learning the technique if you have mastered the turns.

There's an even steeper “normal” bank you should be familiar with—the steepest that will register on your turn coordinator. It's a 35-degree bank, and you can see it by going into the Editor once more, pressing Recall, and changing the Bank parameter to 328.

In the steeper turns, by the way, you'll note that you're losing altitude, even though you have a notch of up trim. You can avoid this by adding a notch of power before you start your bank.

The smoothest turn performance, I find, results from applying back pressure (and for turns steeper than 25 degrees, power) before entering the bank. When rolling out, let off the back pressure (and power) after the wings are level. If you enter the turn before trimming or powering up a bit, your altitude starts slipping and it takes longer to re-establish balance. In any event, don't expect the VSI needle to cleave to zero throughout the maneuver. It will move around. You are turning, after all, in a medium much like water. If you see that you've lost altitude after the turn, use a notch of power to climb back up, and vice versa if you've gained. Also don't forget that the vertical-speed indicator lags the actual performance of the aircraft. Keep in contact with your other instruments and with the landscape outside the windshield.

Don't worry if you don't make perfect turns and rollouts at the outset; all these things take practice. You have a lot to remember and do while you're flying. The real beauty of it all is the unmistakable challenge it offers us—to be sharp, to be always improving, to work on faults until we smooth them out, to execute something flawlessly even once, and gradually to become one with this superb machine that somehow, incredibly, gives us wings.

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