Turning To Crosswind


The next phase of flying the pattern is making a moderate turn from the takeoff leg to the crosswind leg. It's a gentle turn using coordinated controls, moving the control yoke or stick to bank the aircraft and simultaneously applying rudder pressure as needed (left rudder on a left turn). You can make sure the turn is coordinated by watching the turn coordinator instrument (if you have one) or looking out the window to compare the plane's attitude against the horizon.

When should you turn from the takeoff (upwind) leg to the crosswind leg? Most pilots suggest that you do so once you can see the nearest end of the runway about half way between the wing and tail as you look back. This technique also works for determining when to turn from the downwind leg to the base leg later.

Flight instruments during a turn

Remember that your aircraft is still climbing at the normal climb or best-rate-of-climb speed and attitude. You must maintain this speed and attitude during the turn. For most folks, the climbing turn is a bit challenging so don't get discouraged if it takes practice to get it right. And it's where you can get into trouble if it's not done smoothly, so your instructor will have you practicing this combination maneuver until you can do it easily.

Wing Tips

If you have a flight simulation program or a flight simulator available to you, practice flying the pattern—especially climbing and descending turns — until you can do them well. You will not only gain flight confidence but also speed your learning process.