Commercial Flight Maneuvers for Everyone!

Flying commercial-level pilot maneuvers is a wonderful challenge and a useful skill-builder for every pilot. These are not only fun and challenging but teach correct rudder usage when flown properly. Many pilots at the private level do not understand or apply correct rudder inputs – a primary reason for LOC-I. Search out a qualified instructor and take your flying to a higher level of proficiency with some commercial maneuvers. Learning new skills and extending your flight envelope creates greater flight safety and is also great fun! These maneuvers are a gateway to an upset recovery course or aerobatics – but these should be mastered first to get full value from this kind of advanced training.

Mastering commercial maneuvers requires eyes-out aggressive flying at the edge of the flight envelope and begins with a thorough aerodynamic knowledge of the forces at work. The heart of all the commercial maneuvers is a concept called “cross-coordinated.” When you are climbing in a chandelle or navigating your way through a lazy eight you are often applying “crossed controls” to create coordinated flight. The control inputs and forces at work are not initially intuitive. Mastery requires study and practice to internalize a solid “feel” for the airplane during this more aggressive commercial-level maneuvering. And though all these maneuvers are “non-operational,” but you will be rewarded with much more precise (and  safer) flying skills as well as a greater sense of confidence and control.

Step one in discovering commercial maneuvers is getting the eyes outside and rediscovering aggressive VFR flying; “yank and bank.” Most pilots in a normal flight training progression just completed an instrument rating (smooth standard rate turns with reference to their trusted instruments). Commercial training can come as a shock, requiring outside visual references and a “tuned up butt” to properly sense and correct yaw. Try some private pilot steep turns at 45 degrees and work up to 60 degrees. Then reverse at 180 degrees of turn and work up to “60/90s” (reversing a 60-degree banked steep turn after 90 degrees of turn). This is “old school” flying – find a good instructor to help you. This will get a little sweat going as well as demonstrate the need for an outside sight reference and positive control usage.

Step two is serpentine climbing 30 degree turns right and left with full power and a Vx attitude. This will quickly demonstrate the need for right rudder while climbing in a left turn and left aileron while climbing in a right turn. Initially, this feels “unnatural” for many private pilots, but this is the beginning of understanding “cross-coordination” and will progress into chandelles. Your pattern crosswind turns will be immediately safer with your newly-mastered “cross-coordination.”

A series of  climbing and descending (coordinated) wingovers – working toward a lazy eight – will demonstrate the need for quick and accurate rudder usage as the wing loads and unloads. Suddenly pilots are “flying again” after 40 hours of instrument somnambulance (or years of rope-a-doping around the pattern); fun! These climbs and descents also illustrate the changing yoke forces necessary to maintain specific flight attitudes as the speed of the aircraft changes the effectiveness of the flight controls.

The last step in this introduction to commercial flight maneuvers is some slow flight and stalls first straight ahead, then turning. Flight training is an opportunity to fly at minimum control speed with the horn blaring (just don’t do it on a flight test – the FAA is sensitive about this). Bank 30 degrees right and left aggressively at the edge of a stall. Coordination is essential and LOTS of rudder is required to pivot left and right on the edge of a stall. Then demonstrate an old-style power off stall recovery letting the nose fall through the horizon with the yoke all the way back (stay stalled till the nose is down). As an instructor, when your pilot-in-training sees this dramatic nose-down attitude (while still feeling the stall) some understanding of angle of attack will be immediately built. (The angle of attack indicator in every plane is how much chrome is showing on the control yoke shaft).

Turning stalls recovered without power (just releasing AOA) are the last maneuver in this sortie as you descend turning right and left while stalling and recovering. This again shows the need for coordination and the power of AOA for recovery. Turning stalls are part of the Private Pilot ACS and often missed during initial training. Engage a qualified instructor and master some commercial maneuvers. Soon you will add finesse, safety (and FUN) to your regular flying. Fly safe out there (and often)!


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Author: David St. George

SAFE Director, Master CFI (12X), FAA DPE, ATP (ME/SE) Currently jet charter captain.

3 thoughts on “Commercial Flight Maneuvers for Everyone!”

  1. In teaching how to use the controls, I follow all of the suggestions made to understand the function of the rudder and how to use it correctly including demonstration of skidding turns, coordinated turns, Dutch Rolls, adverse aileron yaw, etc. Also included during training are forward and side slips up to full rudder deflection so that’s about as far as anyone could go to have uncoordinated flight. However, I have never experienced LOC from incorrect rudder input – only from too much angle of attack or too little speed. Why are you saying incorrect rudder inputs are a primary reason for LOC?

    1. Thank-you for the comment Warren. And you are absolutely correct (and maybe I was misleading here)! The improper rudder by itself when flying in the center of the flight envelope will usually just made passengers sick 🙂 – not a threat. But combine that uncoordination with excessive AOA (slow speed of G) and that is where LOC-I bites the pilot.

      In a standard left pattern, the climbing left crosswind turn is most typically skidding (no right rudder, no coordination) *and* the AOA is typically high; set up for disaster. This seems especially common (and can be more dangerous) with high power aircraft that will drag the plane uphill despite poor coordination (streamlining). The presence of all that power makes the rudder unnecessary to achieve performance (the 300HP pulls the plane uphill even badly coordinated). In a C-150, this level of miscoordination on a hot day would yield a penalty of half the climb performance. Flying gliders, if you do not perfectly coordinate your spirals in a thermal you throw away the lift!

      It sounds like you are teaching all the right coordination maneuvers- keep up the great work. It is *so* satisfying when a pilot “gets it” on rudder use and carves those perfectly coordinated turns.

      1. Got it. And also thank you for the emphasis in stall training from turns, both power on and off. I agree completely that that is a huge weak point in training.

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