Turns (Part Two) – Turns to Predetermined Headings, Timed Turns, and Compass Turns

Turns to Predetermined Headings

Turning the aircraft is one of the most basic maneuvers that a pilot learns during initial flight training. Learning to control the aircraft, maintaining coordination, and smoothly rolling out on a desired heading are all keys to proficient attitude instrument flying.

EFDs allow the pilot to better utilize all instrumentation during all phases of attitude instrument flying by consolidating all traditional instrumentation onto the PFD. The increased size of the attitude indicator, which stretches the entire width of the PFD, allows the pilot to maintain better pitch control while the introduction of the turn rate indicator positioned directly on the compass rose aids the pilot in determining when to begin a roll-out for the desired heading.


When determining what bank angle to utilize when making a heading change, a general rule states that for a small heading change, do not use a bank angle that is greater than the total number of degrees of change needed. For instance, if a heading change of 20° is needed, a bank angle of not more than 20° is required. Another rule of thumb that better defines the bank angle is half the total number of degrees of heading change required, but never greater than standard rate. The exact bank angle that equates to a standard rate turn varies due to true airspeed.

With this in mind and the angle of bank calculated, the next step is determining when to start the roll-out process. For example An aircraft begins a turn from a heading of 030° to a heading of 120°. With the given airspeed, a standard rate turn has yielded a 15° bank. The pilot wants to begin a smooth coordinated roll-out to the desired heading when the heading indicator displays approximately 112°. The necessary calculations are:

15° bank (standard rate) ÷ 2 = 7.5°
120° – 7.5° = 112.5°

By utilizing this technique, the pilot is better able to judge if any modifications need to be made to the amount of lead once the amount of over- or undershooting is established.


Timed Turns

Timed turns to headings are performed in the same fashion with an EFD as with an analog equipped aircraft. The instrumentation used to perform this maneuver is the turn rate indicator as well as the clock. The purpose of this maneuver is to allow the pilot to gain proficiency in scanning as well as to further develop the pilot’s ability to control the aircraft without standard instrumentation.

Timed turns become essential when controlling the aircraft with a loss of the heading indicator. This may become necessary due to a loss of the AHRS unit or the magnetometer. In any case, the magnetic compass is still available for navigation. The reason for timed turns instead of magnetic compass turns is the simplicity of the maneuver. Magnetic compass turns require the pilot to take into account various errors associated with the compass; timed turns do not.

Prior to initiating a turn, determine if the standard rate indication on the turn rate indicator actually delivers a 3 degrees per second turn. To accomplish this, a calibration must be made. Establish a turn in either direction at the indicated standard rate. Start the digital timer as the compass rolls past a cardinal heading. Stop the timer once the compass card rolls through another cardinal heading. Roll wings level and compute the rate of turn. If the turn rate indicator is calibrated and indicating correctly, 90° of heading change should take 30 seconds. If the time taken to change heading by 90° is more or less than 30 seconds, then a deflection above or below the standard rate line needs to be made to compensate for the difference. Once the calibration has been completed in one direction, proceed to the opposite direction. When both directions have been calibrated, apply the calibrated calculations to all timed turns.

In order to accomplish a timed turn, the amount of heading change needs to be established. For a change in heading from 120° to a heading of 360°, the pilot calculates the difference and divides that number by 3. In this case, 120° divided by 3° per second equals 40 seconds. This means that it would take 40 seconds for an aircraft to change heading 120° if that aircraft were held in a perfect standard rate turn. Timing for the maneuver should start as the aircraft begins rolling into the standard rate turn. Monitor all flight instruments during this maneuver. The primary pitch instrument is the altimeter. The primary power instrument is the ASI and the primary bank instrument is the turn rate indicator.

Once the calculated time expires, start a smooth coordinated roll-out. As long as the pilot utilizes the same rate of roll-in as roll-out, the time it takes for both will not need to be included in the calculations. With practice, the pilot should level the wings on the desired heading. If any deviation has occurred, make small corrections to establish the correct heading.

Compass Turns

The magnetic compass is the only instrument that requires no other source of power for operation. In the event of an AHRS or magnetometer failure, the magnetic compass is the instrument the pilot uses to determine aircraft heading.