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

S-Turns Across a Road


    A practice maneuver in which the airplane's ground track describes semicircles of equal radii on each side of a selected straight line on the ground


  • Select a suitable altitude above 600 feet AGL
  • Select a suitable ground reference line with an emergency landing area adjacent


    Private Pilot PTS, VIII, B
    • Explain associated procedures and wind drift correction
    • Select suitable ground reference line
    • Enter perpendicular to line at 600 to 1,000 feet AGL
    • Division of attention, coordinated flight
    • Constant radii on each side
    • Reverse direction directly over reference line
    • Altitude +/- 100 feet
    • Airspeed +/- 10 kts


    To develop the ability to compensate for drift during turns, orient the flightpath with ground references, and divide the pilot's attention


  • Discuss definition, safety factors, tolerances, objectives, common errors, and other elements of S-turns across a road
  • How to select a suitable altitude
      Add 800 feet (600 to 1,000) to surface elevation
  • How to select a suitable ground reference line with consideration given to emergency landing area
    • Straight line ground reference oriented perpendicular to wind
    • Emergency landing area adjacent
  • Orientation, division of attention, and planning
  • Configuration and airspeed prior to entry
  • Entry technique
    • Approach downwind, SLF, perpendicular to reference line
    • Directly over road, start first turn with relatively rapid roll into a relatively steep bank
  • Wind drift correction
      Turn on downwind side of road
        Gradually shallow bank; decrease crab
      Upwind side
        Gradually increase angle of bank
      Maximum crab is at 90° points
  • Tracking semicircles of equal radii on either side of selected ground reference line
    • Visualize and fly over desired semicircular ground tracks
    • Requires constantly changing rates of roll and bank
  • How to maintain desired altitude and airspeed
    • Outside references +
    • Instrument cross-check
  • Turn reversal over the ground reference line
  • Coordination of flight controls
  • Demonstrate S-turns across a road in flight
  • Coach student practice
  • Critique student performance


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

Greg Gordon MD, CFII