Ground Reference Maneuvers – Turns Around a Point

in Basic Flight Maneuvers

This training maneuver requires flying constant radius turns around a preselected point on the ground using a bank angle of approximately 30°–45°, while maintaining both a constant altitude and the same distance from the point throughout the maneuver. [Figure 9-17] The objective, as in other ground reference maneuvers, is to develop the ability to subconsciously control the helicopter while dividing attention between flightpath, how the winds are affecting the turn and ground references, and watching for other air traffic in the vicinity. This is also used in high reconnaissance, observation, and photography flight.

Figure 9-17. Turns around a point.

Figure 9-17. Turns around a point.


The factors and principles of drift correction that are involved in S-turns are also applicable to this maneuver. As in other ground track maneuvers, a constant radius around a point requires the pilot to change the angle of bank constantly and make numerous control changes to compensate for the wind. The closer the helicopter is to a direct downwind heading at which the groundspeed is greatest, the steeper the bank and the greater the rate of turn required to establish the proper wind correction angle. The closer the helicopter is to a direct upwind heading at which the groundspeed is least, the shallower the bank and the lower the rate of turn required to establish the proper wind correction angle. Therefore, throughout the maneuver, the bank and rate of turn must be varied gradually and in proportion to the groundspeed corrections made for the wind.

The point selected for turns should be prominent and easily distinguishable, yet small enough to present a precise reference. Isolated trees, crossroads, or other similar small landmarks are usually suitable. The point should be in an area away from communities, livestock, or groups of people on the ground to prevent possible annoyance or hazard to others. Since the maneuver is performed between 500 and 800 feet AGL, the area selected should also afford an opportunity for a safe emergency autorotation in the event it becomes necessary.

Just as S-turns require that the helicopter be turned into the wind in addition to varying the bank, so do turns around a point. During the downwind half of the circle, the helicopter’s nose must be progressively turned toward the inside of the circle; during the upwind half, the nose must be progressively turned toward the outside. The downwind half of the turn around the point may be compared to the downwind side of the S-turn, while the upwind half of the turn around a point may be compared to the upwind side of the S-turn.

Upon gaining experience in performing turns around a point and developing a good understanding of the effects of wind drift and varying of the bank angle and wind correction angle as required, entry into the maneuver may be from any point. When entering this maneuver at any point, the radius of the turn must be carefully selected, taking into account the wind velocity and groundspeed so that an excessive bank is not required later to maintain the proper ground track.

S-Turn Common Errors 

  • Faulty entry technique.
  • Poor planning, orientation, or division of attention.
  • Uncoordinated flight control application.
  • Improper correction for wind drift.
  • Failure to maintain selected altitude or airspeed.
  • Failure to maintain an equal distance around the point.
  • Excessive bank angles.
51l0aN891BL._SX396_BO1,204,203,200_Are you ready to start your journey learning to fly helicopters? Learning to Fly Helicopters, Second Edition, provides details on the technical and practical aspects of rotarywing flight. Written in a conversational style, the book demystifies the art and science of helicopter flying.

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