Steep Spirals


  • Steep Spirals simulate an emergency situation where an aircraft is required to descend as rapidly as possible to a forced landing
  • Additionally, steep spirals improve pilot technique for power off turns, wind drift control, planning, orientation, and division of attention

Steep Spiral Procedure:

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

  1. Select an altitude where recovery will occur no lower than 1,500' AGL and a descent will be no more than 2,000'
  2. Brief all passengers
    • Let passengers know what you are doing, to buckle up and secure all objects and how to avoid pressurization build up
    • Tell them to let you know if they have any problems
  3. Determine wind direction
  4. Perform clearing turns
  5. Select a reference point in an area where an emergency landing can be made if necessary
  6. Generally, enter on downwind
    • Fly almost directly over the reference point
  7. Approaching the reference point:
    • Enrichen the mixture
  8. Abeam the reference point:
    • Reduce the throttle to idle
    • Roll into a steep bank (not to exceed 60°)
    • Maintain a constant radius
    • Adjust pitch to maintain best glide speed
  9. As the wind direction changes in the spiral, adjust bank angle to maintain a constant radius around the reference point
    • Clear the engine on the upwind legs every turn
  10. Turning upwind, clear the engine every 360°
    • Operating the engine at idle speed for prolonged periods may result in excessive engine cooling or spark plug fouling
    • Check engine operation during the glide by "clearing" the engine on every upwind (to minimize any variation in ground-speed and turn radius)
  11. Conduct a series of at least three 360° turns
  12. Complete the maneuver on entry heading and set cruise power
    • Trim as necessary
    • Recover above 1500' AGL unless combining the maneuver with an Emergency Approach and Landing
  13. Complete the cruise checklist
Steep Spirals
Steep Spirals
Steep Spirals
Steep Spirals

Common Errors:

  • Failure to adequately clear the area
  • Excessive pitch change during entry or recovery
  • Attempts to start recovery prematurely
  • Failure to stop the turn on a precise heading
  • Excessive rudder during recovery, resulting in skidding
  • Inadequate power management and airspeed control
  • Attempting to perform the maneuver by instrument reference rather than visual reference
  • Poor coordination, resulting in skidding and/or slipping
  • Inadequate wind drift correct
  • Failure to coordinate the controls, so that no increase/decrease in speed results when straight glide is resumed
  • Failure to scan for other traffic
  • Failure to maintain orientation

Airman Certification Standards: