Teaching and Learning Flying - Commercial Pilot, Single-Engine Airplane



    Eights-on-pylons is a flight maneuver in which the airplane is flown in an approximate "figure-eight" flightpath alternating around two pylons. During the turns on each pylon, a constant "line-of-sight" reference is maintained, so that the airplane appears to pivot around the pylon on the end of this reference line.


  • Lights on
  • CLEAR area with two 90° turns, left and right
  • Maximum bank 30-40°
  • Suitable emergency landing area within gliding distance (adjacent)


  • Approximately 3 to 5 seconds of straight-and-level flight between pylons
  • Maximum bank angle approximately 30° to 40°
  • Line-of-sight reference remains on pylon with minimum longitudinal and vertical movement
  • Holds pylon avoiding slips and skids


  • To develop the student's knowledge and skill in performance of eights-on-pylons to meet the Commercial Pilot Practical Test Standards
  • To develop the planning, coordination, and orientation required to accurately maneuver the airplane on pylons while dividing attention between outside references, instrument indications, and watching for other traffic


    • Discuss the definition, safety factors, tolerances, and objectives of eights-on-pylons
    • Diagram eights-on-pylons on chalkboard
    • Use model airplane to demonstrate "line-of-sight" reference
    • Discuss formula for estimating pivotal altitude from groundspeed,
    • Discuss selection of suitable pylons (approximately 1/2 mile apart on line perpendicular to wind, adjacent to an emergency landing area)
    • Instructor and then student explain procedures associated with eights-on-pylons and corrections used to maintain the "line-of-sight" reference on the pylon
    • Explain again while demonstrating eights-on-pylons
    • CLEAR area
    • Flying crosswind, select suitable pylons on downwind side
    • Enter at cruise airspeed at approximate pivotal altitude diagonally downwind over midpoint between pylons
    • Turn into wind, setting up constant "line-of-sight" reference on pylon
    • Hold "line-of-sight" reference on pylon using elevator to descend to pylon moving ahead of reference and to climb "back" to pylon moving behind reference
    • Roll out with crab into wind to fly straight-and-level over midpoint between pylons and arrive abeam next pylon at approximate pivotal altitude
    • Coach student practice of eights-on-pylons
    • Student flies several eights-on-pylons as described and demonstrated
    • Critique student performance


  • Poor pylon picking (e.g., no suitable emergence landing area within gliding distance, not prominent enough, too far apart)
  • Faulty entry technique
  • Poor planning, orientation, division of attention (may lead to "losing" a pylon)
  • Uncoordinated flight control application
  • Use of improper "line-of-sight" reference
  • Application of rudder alone to maintain "line-of-sight" on the pylon
  • Improper timing of turn entries and rollouts
  • Poor wind drift correction between pylons

Greg Gordon MD, CFII