Clearing Turns


  • There are many different clearing procedures but the essential idea is to be certain that the maneuver to be performed is not going to proceed into another airplane's flightpath
    • Some pilot training programs have hard and fast rules, such as requiring two 90° turns in opposite directions before executing any training maneuver while other types may be developed by individual flight instructors
    • Whatever the preferred method, the flight instructor should teach the beginning student an effective clearing procedure and insist on its use
  • Most importantly, clearing turns allow you to see areas the airframe would have otherwise obstructed and make you more visible to pilots as you bank
  • While looking for other aircraft and hazards, it is crucial to maintain proper "see and avoid" techniques to assist
    • Remember, an aircraft on a collision course will appear relatively stationary which will break up in a turn
  • This may seem like a waste of fuel at times but the victims of mid-air collisions would beg to differ

Clearing Turn Procedure:

All procedures are GENERALIZED. Fly the maneuver in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) and/or current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

  1. Set fuel selector to BOTH
  2. Set the mixture control as required
  3. Note your initial heading and the heading you wish to roll out on to perform the next maneuver
  4. Pick a reference point 90-180° to your left or right
  5. Perform a level turn at about 30° for 90-180° to put the nose of the aircraft on this point
    • If flying a high-wing aircraft, raise your wing first, to clear that direction before turning
    • If flying a low-wing aircraft, apply common sense to bank angle if clearing below you is especially important for an upcoming maneuver (e.g., stalls)
  6. Look for other aircraft or hazards through the entire turn in ALL directions
    • This includes up and down, especially if you intend to do any maneuver which will require an excessive change in altitude
  7. Once the wings are leveled on your reference point, take another look around and then begin a turn for 90-180° back to the original heading or to the heading of the next maneuver
    • Throughout the entire turn, look in ALL directions
  8. Complete appropriate checklist

Common Errors:

  • Gaining or loosing altitude
  • Poor coordination
  • Abrupt control usage
  • Inadequate visual lookout for other aircraft
  • Clearing only a small portion of sky due to short turns

Airman Certification Standards:

  • Airman Certification Standards
    • There are no specific standards to perform clearing turns however, collision avoidance is a special emphasis item and considered critical to safety
    • Simply stated, it is not important how you do it, but that you do it, and do it effectively


  • As stated above, clearing turns may need to be made to a specific direction for a reason however, consider clearing turns to the left first
    • This ensures that if anyone is passing to the right in accordance with right-of-way guidelines, you and them remain clear of one another