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Conquer Steep Turns and Rule the Skies (Step by Step)

Conquer Steep Turns and Rule the Skies (Step by Step)

Steeps turns require a lot of your attention and plenty of practice. During a steep turn, you must split your attention both inside and outside the aircraft while maintaining strict flight parameters.

There is no doubt that practicing steep turns increases pilot proficiency, so let’s explore what this is all about and make you a better pilot.

Know the standards

A steep turn is defined as:

  • A 360° turn at 45 degrees bank while maintaining +/- 5°

During a steep turn:

  • Your altitude must be maintained at +/- 100 feet
  • Your airspeed must be within 10 knots
  • Your roll out must remain within 10° of your entry heading

Tips and tricks

Before we get into the step-by-step guide to executing a steep turn, let’s go over some basic things you can do to ensure you pull off this maneuver as a pro. It also helps to watch a steep turn training guide that explains the fundamentals.

Set yourself up for success

Prior to executing any flight maneuver, it helps to have the aircraft set up and stable. That is, let’s ensure you are trimmed out and flying straight and level. It’s simply adding more to your plate if you are already starting off slightly nose up or down and either decreasing or increasing airspeed. Having your speed, heading and altitude all trimmed and where you want it before you start will set you up for success. If possible, start your turn on a cardinal. It’s easier to make out on the HI.

Practice the maneuver often. Know the power settings and adjustments that are needed both going into and coming out of your turn. With practice comes muscle memory. Your hand will begin to know the right feel of how much push and pull on the throttle you require to perform the maneuver.

Knowing and remembering what the nose attitude looks like while in a 45° turn makes staying in the turn within the limits that you will tested on much easier. Know where that spot is on the horizon and its relationship to the cowling for both the left and right turns, then create that picture in your mind and keep it there.

When performing the maneuver later, you’ll be able to come very close to that 45° mark simply by looking outside the aircraft and recalling what it looks like in comparison to the horizon line and the engine cowling because you practiced it and remember what it looks like.

Conquer Steep Turns and Rule the Skies

Flight control inputs during steep turns: small corrections are the key here

  • Minor corrections for pitch are done with elevator.
  • Reduce bank angle to correct for decreasing altitude.
  • Slightly increase bank angle if altitude is increasing.
  • Scan instruments and spot trends.
  • Remember to step on the rudder during your rollout.

The Steep Turn, Step by Step:

  1. Perform a clearing turn. (Always, always, always do a visual scan of the horizon and clear the airspace prior to any maneuvers or turns. Failure to do so has been a cause of many in-flight accidents).
  2. Pick an entry heading or note your current heading (Preferably a cardinal heading).
  3. Look outside the cockpit and select a landmark on or about the same heading. (This gives you a visual clue prior to rolling out).
  4. Roll into a 45° (Either to the left or right).
  5. Pull the nose up (As needed to maintain proper attitude and altitude).
  6. Adjust power when necessary and set your trim (will be slightly nose up).
  7. Apply opposite aileron (Steep turns require opposite aileron input to counter the overbanking tendency of the aircraft).
  8. Select that point on aircraft cowling that gives you the correct sight picture for your steep turn.
  9. Start your scan, outside and inside the aircraft.
  10. Maintain +/- 100’ altitude during your turn.
  11. Maintain +/- 10 knots.
  12. Maintain your 45° turn +/- 5°.
  13. Start your rollout within about 20° (for steep turns) of your original heading.
  14. Adjust power (decrease) if necessary.
  15. Decrease any nose up trim if you added it.
  16. Ensure wings are level as you complete your roll out to your original heading.
  17. Trim for straight and level flight.


Steep turns are nothing to fear. They will however require more of your attention, so give them the attention they deserve. Practice them more often. Remember the tips and tricks that will help you become more proficient, and then nail those turns like a pro.

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