Turns (Part One) – Standard Rate Turns

Standard Rate Turns

The previous sections have addressed flying straight-andlevel as well as climbs and descents. However, attitude instrument flying is not accomplished solely by flying in a straight line. At some point, the aircraft needs to be turned to maneuver along victor airways, global positioning system (GPS) courses, and instrument approaches. The key to instrument flying is smooth, controlled changes to pitch and bank. Instrument flying should be a slow but deliberate process that takes the pilot from departure airport to destination airport without any radical flight maneuvers.


A turn to specific heading should be made at standard rate. Standard rate is defined as a turning rate of 3 degrees per second, which yields a complete 360° turn in 2 minutes. A turning rate of 3 degrees per second allows for a timely heading change, as well as allowing the pilot sufficient time to cross-check the flight instruments and avoid drastic changes to the aerodynamic forces being exerted on the aircraft. At no time should the aircraft be maneuvered faster than the pilot is comfortable cross-checking the flight instruments. Most autopilots are programmed to turn at standard rate.

Establishing A Standard Rate Turn

In order to initiate a standard rate turn, approximate the bank angle and then establish that bank angle on the attitude indicator. A rule of thumb to determine the approximate angle of bank is to use 15 percent of the true airspeed. A simple way to determine this amount is to divide the airspeed by 10 and add one-half the result. For example, at 100 knots, approximately 15° of bank is required (100/10 = 10 + 5 = 15); at 120 knots, approximately 18° of bank is needed for a standard-rate turn. Cross-check the turn rate indicator, located on the HSI, to determine if that bank angle is sufficient to deliver a standard rate turn. Slight modifications may need to be made to the bank angle in order to achieve the desired performance. The primary bank instrument in this case is the turn rate indicator since the goal is to achieve a standard rate turn. The turn rate indicator is the only instrument that can specifically indicate a standard rate turn. The attitude indicator is used only to establish a bank angle (control instrument) but can be utilized as a supporting instrument by cross-checking the bank angle to determine if the bank is greater or less than what was calculated.

As the aircraft rolls into the bank, the vertical component of lift begins to decrease. [Figure 7-67] As this happens, additional lift must be generated to maintain level flight. Apply aft control pressure on the yoke sufficient to stop any altitude loss trend. With the increase in lift that needs to be generated, additional induced drag is also generated. This additional drag causes the aircraft to start to decelerate. To counteract this, apply additional thrust by adding power to the power lever. Once altitude and airspeed is being maintained, utilize the trim wheel to eliminate any control forces that need to be held on the control column.

Figure 7-67. Standard rate turn—constant airspeed.

Figure 7-67. Standard rate turn—constant airspeed. [click image to enlarge]

When rolling out from a standard rate turn, the pilot needs to utilize coordinated aileron and rudder and roll-out to a wings level attitude utilizing smooth control inputs. The roll-out rate should be the same as the roll-in rate in order to estimate the lead necessary to arrive at the desired heading without over- or undershooting.


During the transition from the turn back to straight flight, the attitude indicator becomes the primary instrument for bank. Once the wings are level, the heading indicator becomes the primary instrument for bank. As bank decreases, the vertical component increases if the pitch attitude is not decreased sufficiently to maintain level flight. An aggressive cross-check keeps the altimeter stationary if forward control pressure is applied to the control column. As the bank angle is decreased, the pitch attitude should be decreased accordingly in order to arrive at the level pitch attitude when the aircraft reaches zero bank. Remember to utilize the trim wheel to eliminate any excess control forces that would otherwise need to be held.

Common Errors

  1. One common error associated with standard rate turns is due to pilot inability to hold the appropriate bank angle that equates to a standard rate. The primary bank instrument during the turn is the turn rate indicator; however, the bank angle varies slightly. With an aggressive cross-check, a pilot should be able to minimize errors arising from over- or underbanking.
  2. Another error normally encountered during standard rate turns is inefficient or lack of adequate crosschecking. Pilots need to establish an aggressive cross-check in order to detect and eliminate all deviations from altitude, airspeed, and bank angle during a maneuver.
  3. Fixation is a major error associated with attitude instrument flying in general. Pilots training for their instrument rating tend to focus on what they perceive to be the most important task at hand and abandon their cross-check by applying all of their attention to the turn rate indicator. A modified radial scan works well to provide the pilot with adequate scanning of all instrumentation during the maneuver.

Flight Literacy Recommends

William Kershner's Instrument Flight Manual - Everything you need to know to obtain an FAA instrument rating, or a great refresher for existing instrument pilots. Covered subjects include airplane performance and basic instrument flying, navigation and communications, clearances, planning IFR flight, and carrying out the instrument flight itself from preflight, takeoff and departure, en route, through to the approach and landing phases.