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9 tips to performing the steep spiral maneuver

Diagram from the Airplane Flying Handbook. Steep spirals are a maneuver typically introduced to students working on their commercial training. However, it is important for students to be introduced to the steep spiral maneuver early on in their private pilot training due to the role the steep spiral has when it comes to safely getting a plane on the ground during an emergency. A steep spiral is essentially a descending turn around a point where the pilot needs to demonstrate three turns per the airman certification standards. This maneuver has a real-life application for an engine failure or other emergency that requires the pilot to hover over a potential landing spot while descending for an approach to a landing. This is especially important in mountainous terrain or over populated areas where there are few places to put a plane down. It helps the pilot make the spot in case an emergency landing is needed. Clearing turns It is always important to perform two clearing turns prior to starting any maneuver, including a steep spiral. Clearing turns will help the pilot determine if it is a suitable spot to perform a maneuver by checking for traffic or obstacles where the maneuver will be performed. Additionally, pilots need to check the aircraft's blind spots before starting the clearing turn. This includes dipping the wing in a low-wing aircraft and checking below the wing. In a high-wing aircraft, lifting the wing prior to starting the turn ensures the area above the aircraft is clear of traffic and or obstacles. Start the maneuver at an altitude where three turns can be completed An altitude of 4,500 AGL or higher is a good place to start. Any less than this, and it will be difficult to get all three turns in. The higher, the better. This will set you up for success and give you more wiggle room with the maneuver. Enter the maneuver on downwind Entering a maneuver on the downwind will introduce the pilot to the fastest ground speed throughout the 360-degree turns, which will increase the amount of bank angle needed in order to maintain a constant radius around the circle. As the tailwind turns to a headwind, the ground speed will decrease and less bank will be needed for the maneuver. Find a point Similarly, to a turnaround point, having a visual point on the ground to keep a constant radius turnaround will help ensure success. Anything can be used; I like using a four-way intersection the best. The diagram published by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses a water tower. Pull the power The maneuver is to be performed at idle power. You may clear the throttle by briefly applying power once per turn to ensure the aircraft's engine hasn't seized. Pitch for best glide Best glide will ensure that you can glide longer and help complete all three turns. Per the ACS, +/- 10 knots must be maintained on the airspeed indicator. Bank as necessary to maintain a constant radius turn On downwind, a steeper bank is required due to the faster groundspeed. The bank is constantly changing throughout the turns and will shallow out on the upwind side of the turn. No more than 60 degrees of bank per the ACS. After completing the third turn, exit the maneuver no lower than 1,500 AGL The final turn must be completed no lower than 1,500 above the ground. In a real emergency requiring a landing, this would be a good place for the pilot to start configuring as needed for the landing. Roll out of the final turn +/- 10 degrees from the downwind heading that the maneuver was started from Pilots must know how to perform a steep spiral. The maneuver is typically taught during commercial training, however, the role of the maneuver in an emergency makes it a critical maneuver for instructors to introduce to student pilots working on their private pilot training. This maneuver also perfects a student's wind correction and energy management.
Created 77 days ago
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