"this is easy", then slowly realizing that I was drifting and that there was more to the maneuver than met the eye and left it at that realizing that I probably wouldn't need to carry out this 'circling' too often. Now I find myself needing to demonstrate the  'turns' for a check ride so that I can go 'fully American' and wondering again what it's for. Some tweeple tell me it is a surprisingly difficult maneuver and that I may need it when ATC request a delaying tactic of 360 while in the circuit (pattern). I find this hard to believe for two reasons. 1. I've been flying since 1988 (no jokes about how big the fuel tanks must be) and I've been asked to 'orbit' right (360 degrees to the right) ONCE in all that time for the purposes of traffic scheduling. How rarely I've been asked to 'orbit right' or 'orbit left' is besides the point. In the pattern there is a much better way of slotting yourself  into the traffic it's called 'slowing down' or 'speeding up'. When you're flying a Cessna 182 behind a circuit full of Cessna 152s you soon find that this 'slowing down' idea is really quite useful and certainly better than missed approaches, go-arounds or orbits all over the place.  I know that if I'm behind somebody in the pattern and they are asked to 360, I might find myself wondering if I'm going to be in conflict with them. 2. Next, let's look at a typical case. 360 degrees at rate one takes 2 minutes. Let's say the wind is 10 knots towards the airfield. That means in the two minutes it takes for you to carry out the 360 turn you will have difted (assuming no correction) a total of 1/30 th of 10 nautical miles or 1/3rd of  a nautical mile. Assuming a pattern with a base leg of about 2 nm (airfields vary) you would have drifted 1/3rd of a nautical mile towards the airfield on something that is 2 nm wide. Would you correct this when you came out of your 360? Of course you would. Would anyone notice if you drifted this much during a 360? I don't think so. Furthermore a 360 is typically carried out at a steeper angle than a leisurely rate one turn, so your drift would be even less. Which leaves me with the question, what is the turn about the point really for? By examining the GLEIM book on the matter and looking at the objectives, there are two that makes sense. "Divides attention between airplane control and the ground track while maintaining coordinated flight" and "Applies adequate wind drift correction to track a constant radius turn around the selected reference point". Both of these skills are important. Wind drift is used with dead reckoning and pilotage and during most flight, so you would have thought that was enough practice. 'Divides attention' between external and internal tasks is done on every landing (Speed -Look) again clearly every successful flight ends with a landing. I would contend that it's a bit like asking an athlete to stand on one leg and hop to prove that he or she can run, might be a good exercise and good practice but is it really a substitute for actual useful flying? Therefore, I say to the FAA there is no need for the turns around a point maneuver and please could I not demonstrate it.
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2 Responses to “Americans going round in Circles”

  1. DrATP says:

    Turns around a point are an important first step toward flying a safe and precise traffic pattern (circuit). The maneuver teaches the student to notice the effect of wind on the aircraft’s flight path. But it also teaches the student that, in the typical situation, one needs a steeper bank turning from downwind to base than turning from base to final. The shallower bank at the lower altitude is safer.

    I don’t see the point of making a licensed pilot do the maneuver, but I really think it helps students perform better as beginners.

  2. admin says:

    DrATP, thanks for the comment, I agree with your analysis, and I agree it gives students the ‘feel’ for what to do in windy conditions in the pattern. Thanks for your interest and keep the comments coming.