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

Four Basic Flight Maneuvers


The four basic flight maneuvers, or fundamentals of flight, are turns, climbs (constant airspeed), descents (constant airspeed), and straight-and-level flight (SLF). Climbing and descending turns may be included as fundamental combinations.


  • Division of attention must always include observation for other traffic
  • Lift wing and look before turning in that direction
  • Shallow turns to visually clear climb path


Private Pilot Practical Test Standards (PTS), III. Airport and Traffic Pattern Operations, VI. Flight by Reference to Instruments, and VIII. Flight Maneuvering by Reference to Ground Objects:
  • Straight-and-level flight, straight constant airspeed climbs and descents: maintain desired heading +/-10o, altitude +/-100 feet, airspeed +/-10 knots
  • Turns to headings: altitude and airspeed as above, maintain desired bank angle, roll out on desired heading +/-10o
Private Pilot PTS, V. Cross-Country Flying:
  • Maintain selected altitude +/-200 feet
Commercial Pilot PTS, III. Airport and Traffic Pattern Operations, and VII. Flight by Reference to Ground Objects:
  • Maintain altitude +/-100 feet and airspeed +/-10 knots


  • To encourage mastery of the fundamental, basic building blocks of flying, upon which nearly all normal flying tasks and techniques are based: turns, climbs (and climbing turns), descents (and descending turns), and straight-and-level flight (SLF)
  • To develop the student's knowledge and skill in
    • Proper use of the flight controls for maneuvering the airplane
    • Attaining the proper airplane attitude in relation to both outside and instrument references
    • Division of attention between outside references, instrument references, and scanning for traffic


  • Control operation and effects: elevators, rudder, ailerons, throttle, trim, flaps; airspeed is a factor in control effectiveness
  • Four Fundamentals
    • Turns (model and chalkboard)
      • Entry-turn-rollout
      • Ailerons + rudder: slip and skid
      • Load factor
      • 1.aileron, 2. rudder, 3. elevator
    • Climb
      • Set up mixture, RPM then
        1. elevator
        2. throttle
        3. rudder
      • Torque; trim; monitor CHT
      • Level off
        1. elevator
        2. rudder
        3. throttle
      • Climbing turns
    • Descent
      • Dive vs. power-off glide
      • Loss of slipstream effect
      • Carburetor heat
      • 1. carb temp, 2. throttle, 3. pitch
      • Level off
        1. power
        2. pitch
        3. carb heat OFF
      • Descending turns
    • SLF
      • Power setting and trim
      • Trim for airspeed (power controls altitude)
    • References: outside and instrument (Integrated Flight Instruction)
    • Common errors
  • Turns
    • Say "clear left" or "clear right"
    • Demonstrate and explain medium bank turns (20-30o)
    • Point out reference line on cowling and relation to horizon
    • Student practice
  • Climbs
    • Demonstrate
    • Entry: pitch, then power; torque correction and trim; airspeed
    • Level-off: pitch, airspeed, then cruise power and trim
    • Student practice
  • Climbing turns
    • Demonstrate
    • Student practice
  • Descents
    • Demonstrate
    • Power controls altitude
    • Power-off glide
    • Partial power "landing approach" descent
    • Student practice
  • Descending turns
    • Demonstrate
    • Student practice
  • SLF
    • Set (power and trim) and monitor
    • Alt +/-50 feet challenge
  • Student practice exercises
  • Hood work when ready
  • Critique student performance


  • Failure to cross-check and correctly interpret outside and instrument references
  • Application of control movements rather than pressures
  • Uncoordinated use of flight controls
  • Faulty altitude and bank control (turns)
  • Faulty trim technique
  • Improper correction for torque effect, especially in climbs
  • Failure to clear engine and check or use carburetor heat as appropriate on descents

Greg Gordon MD, CFII