• Develops the ability to compensate for drift during turns by flying semicircles of equal radii on each side of a reference line on the ground [Figure 1]
    • You may need to be creative but the end state is a straight line, approximately 1 mile or longer in length
  • Builds wind drift skills developed with the rectangular course but introduces constant turns
  • The maneuver is flown to arrive at a specified point, at specified headings, while compensating for drift, orienting the flight path with ground references by changing roll rate and angle of bank to establish correction to compensate for ground speed changes

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)

C-172S Procedure:

  1. Determine wind direction
    • This is important for the entry heading and reference line
  2. Perform clearing turns looking for traffic and ground obstructions
  3. Select a reference line in an area where an emergency landing can be made if necessary
    • May be performed on any straight line such as a road, fence, or railroad
    • Select the point on upwind and turn back for a downwind entry
  4. Establish and maintain 100 KIAS (approx. 2200 RPM) to enter the maneuver between 600-1,000' AGL
  5. Enter on a downwind to one side of the selected point, at a distance equal to the desired radius of the turn
  6. Roll into the upwind (perpendicular to reference)
    • When abeam or over the reference line, begin the turn
    • Applies adequate wind-drift correction to track a constant radius turn on each side of the selected reference line
    • Start bank steep, as ground speed is highest
    • Transition to a moderate bank around 90°
    • Shallow rolling out around 180° as ground speed is lowest
    • Roll wings level at 180°
  7. Roll back into downwind
  8. 6. . 7.
    • When over the reference line begin the turn
    • Start bank shallow
    • Increase to a moderate angle of bank around 90° as ground speed increases
    • Steepen the bank angle to roll out around 180°
    • Roll wings level at 180°
  9. Continue the maneuver for another set of turns or depart on entry heading, as directed
  10. Complete cruise checklist

Airplane Flying Handbook, Figure 6-5. S-Turns
Airplane Flying Handbook, S-Turns

Common Errors:

  • Failure to adequately clear the area
  • Poor coordination
  • Gaining or losing altitude
  • Misjudging the rate of turn
  • Inability to visualize the half circle ground track
  • Poor timing in beginning and recovering from turns
  • Faulty correction for drift
  • Inadequate visual lookout for other aircraft

Airman Certification Standards:


  • You must divide attention between airplane control and the ground track while maintaining coordinated flight
  • Rolling into an angle of bank too quickly will not result in crossing perpendicular to the reference line
  • Rolling into an angle of bank too slowly will result in a portion of the maneuver being straight and level to return to profile