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

Rectangular Course


    Practice maneuver in which the ground track of the airplane is equidistant from all sides of a selected rectangular area on the ground


    Rectangular ground reference selected or an adjacent area should be suitable for an emergency landing


    Private Pilot PTS, VIII, A
    • Explain wind drift correction; relationship to traffic patterns
    • Select suitable reference area
    • Enter at desired distance and 600 to 1,000 feet AGL
    • Division of attention, coordinated flight
    • Altitude +100 feet
    • Airspeed +10 kts
    • Bank angle <45°
    • Reverse course, as directed


  • To develop division of attention between the flightpath and ground references, while controlling the airplane and watching for other aircraft
  • To develop recognition of drift toward or away from a line parallel to the intended ground track


  • Discuss definition, safety factors, tolerances, objectives, common errors and other elements of the rectangular course
  • How to select a suitable altitude
    • Determine approximate ground elevation from sectional chart
    • Add 800 feet (600 to 1000)
  • How to select a suitable ground reference with consideration given to emergency landing area
    • Approx 1mile x 1mile rectangle
    • Adjacent emergency landing area
  • Orientation, division of attention, and planning
  • Configuration and airspeed prior to entry
  • Relationship of rectangular course to an airport traffic pattern
  • Wind drift correction
    • Crab just enough to compensate
    • In turns, bank angle must vary with groundspeed
  • How to maintain desired altitude, airspeed, and distance from ground reference boundaries
    • SLF and level turns (<45° max)
    • Approx ¼ to ½ mile from boundary
    • Start turns when abeam the corners
  • Timing of turn entries and rollouts
      Downwind to crosswind
        Bank steep to medium; turn greater than 90°
      Crosswind to upwind
        Bank medium to shallow; less than 90°
      Upwind to crosswind
        Bank shallow to medium; less than 90°
      Crosswind to downwind
        Bank medium to steep; greater than 90°
  • Coordination of flight controls
  • Demonstrate a rectangular course in flight
  • Coach student practice (left and right courses)
  • Critique student performance


  • Poor planning, orientation, or division of attention
  • Uncoordinated flight control application
  • Improper correction for wind drift
  • Failure to maintain selected altitude or airspeed
  • Selection of ground reference where there is no suitable emergency landing area within gliding distance

Greg Gordon MD, CFII