Steep Spirals


Well-Known Member
So I'm wrapping up my commercial, and I have all the manuvers but one down. The steep spiral. My problem is, that none of the CFI's I've talked to seem to know exactly what's required for the manuver on the ride. The first CFI I went up with said that you climb up to a specific altitude (i.e.- 4,000-ish AGL) and basically do a steepened (is that a word?) version of turns around a point. The next CFI I went with, said that the first guy was full of it, and that all it was, was a steep spiral over an emergency landing site. Does anybody know what it really is? Oh, if I had only been able to get my commercial done before August last year.



My first "official" post. I feel so special now!

It creeps me out to hear these kind of stories. I had the same problem when I was up for my commercial and ended up looking it up myslef!

To quote the handbook for you...
"A steep spiral is nothing more than a constant gliding turn, during which a constant radius around a point on the ground is maintained similar to the maneuver, turns around a point." blah blah blah

-Bank should not exceed 60 degrees
-Should complete 3 full 360 degree turns
-approx 1000fpm decent per turn (cessna)
-should roll out with approx 1000 agl on entry heading

you can read the rest.
I'm a (new) CFI and I agree with you!!

I also feel the need to give my CFI/CFII major credit for having taught me steep spirals when they *weren't* on the PTS. He's been teaching for 20-some years full time and has seen various maneuvers come and go. He was still teaching the Spiral and the 180 degree accuracy landing because he felt they were valuable teaching tools. I appreciated being *taught* not just being prepped for a checkride.

In return, I try to teach my students the same way. I'm still teaching my private students the emergency descent and I was teaching them slow flight in its current incarnation (what used to be called MCA) before the August re-write (okay, so I was only teaching for two months prior to the re-write, but I never had any intention of *not* teaching them how to control the airplane at its slowest possible airspeed).

I had also planned to teach the steep spiral and 180 degree accuracy landing to all of my commercial students because I really do think they are valuable. Now it's not a choice, but I'm actually glad to see them back on there.

I wish I could teach the 180 degree accuracy approach but I can't remember the last time I was #1 on downwind...Unfortunately I'm usually number 3-6...However I do try to do this on final, not it's not the exact same thing but it helps the student judge rate of descent, airspeed etc...
Find a sleepier non-towered field? I had one of my private students do a couple yesterday for fun and experience.

It helped that we were the only ones in the pattern yesterday due to low ceilings. Still, it was great for pattern work since there was no wind. Usually, at my home airport I have the same problem you do. 5+ airplanes in the pattern and a T-28 coming straight-in for a low approach and an overhead break...

We've got one of the nicest grass strips 7 miles northwest of us too that's pretty quiet and I'll use on occasion. Besides, I can teach soft-field landings a little more realistically there too.

Awesome, thanks for the info. The thing that scares me, is that the CFI that told me the wrong way to do the manuver, had to do the manuver in his training 14+ years ago. Sometimes I wonder..........
Unfortunately there aren't many sleepy non-towered fields around, the only non towered field around me is about 25 miles away. I could introduce it there but I doubt I'm going to fly a mini-cross country out there in a 152 every time we want to do an accuracy approach. It might be something I include later on in student training when we're doing some dual x-countries to uncontrolled fields.
Unfortunately there aren't many sleepy non-towered fields around, the only non towered field around me is about 25 miles away.

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You could always just do the accuracy approaches early in the morning. Thats how my instructor and I were able to practice the maneuver without having to leave Daytona.
Hate to beat a dead horse here guys but my school doesn't open till 8am and by that time the biz jets are rocking and rolling. I'll figure something out!!
nothing too sleepy here in FL, even the uncontrolled are getting to be busy. I had to wait over 30 min outside of a class delta the other day, its just getting insane. Im glad I wasnt in a seminole though!!
I almost bombed my private ride for not using the 360 spiral. My examiner simulated the engine failure about 3500 feet max. two miles out. In best glide I was going to overshoot big time. I ended up slipping like mad and landing coming back the other way against the established pattern. On the ground he asked "what should you have done... spiral." It didn't enter my mind.
Bummer. I did the vast majority of my flight training out of one of the busiest Class D's you'll ever see (PTK -- at 300,000 ops a year, 7 flight schools and a multitude of cargo and bizjet companies including DaimlerChrysler it's right behind Detroit Metro. We have two tower frequencies on a lot of days), but we had plenty of non-towered fields within about 15-20 miles or so to practice the power-off landing and the steep spiral.

I instruct now at a non-towered field. It's fairly busy too, but there's still a lot more flexibility. And I live in a part of Michigan that has an awful lot of airports, so that gives me an advantage. *If* I can actually find good flying weather...

Hate to beat a dead horse here guys but my school doesn't open till 8am and by that time the biz jets are rocking and rolling. I'll figure something out!!

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How about on the required 3 hours and 10 landings at night? It won't be busy then...
Not to sure I would want to be doing this maneuver at night, the only thing you can see is buildings. You dont really want to be spiraling around any major population.
Just to be a pain in the a$$ (which comes easily for me BTW
) there are several advantages to doing them at night (in leiu of or in addition to doing them in the daytime). These include getting a good feel for glide distance even in unfamiliar conditions, recognizing the proper touchdown point, visualizing your glide path in the dark, etc... Yes you do have to worry about obstructions but the same can be said about doing them in the daytime, and as long as you are familiar with the airport it won't be a big deal.
I had to do the 180 approach on my checkride. My DE told me I was his first since the manuever had been put back in the PTS. Things get really busy here in Daytona, so I went to a small field right by the shore that's never busy. The only problem was the field was right by the ocean and the prevailing winds are right off the shore. Makes for some strong crosswinds with only one runway that's configured north/south (18/36). My only advice is to do anything necessary to get down on your point. Flaps/no flaps, side slips, leave the gear up, take it down early, etc... I even had a gold seal CFI show me what happens when you're way too high and you bleed off lots of airspeed to the point of a near stall (I DON'T reccomend this one because your DE is looking to see that you're a safe pilot and this method was a little sketchy, even though the CFI put it right on the numbers). I went out and practiced lots of power off 180's on my own at as many different airports with different TPA's as possible. I REALLY had a blast doing them, but now my normal approach has been messed up, I tend to come in high and pull the power out. Just practice and you'll be fine. If you have a way of doing them that works and is safe by all means stick with it.

Here's some advice for steep spirals. I had to do those on my CSEL ride as well. My CFI had never even done the manuever and was too lazy to look it up, so I did my homework on spirals and went flying with the chief pilot from my school. I want to say the FAA reccomends you begin the manuever INTO the wind. DON'T do this!! If you start out into the wind and you crank in up to 60 degrees of bank to stay over your point, you're going to bust the maneuver. Why? Because your groundspeed is going to be slowest into the wind, and when you're downwind your groundspeed will be fastest, therefore requiring more bank to stay over your point. If you started out putting in 60 degrees into the wind, you're going to use more than 60 when your groundspeed increases on downwind, which is over the limits for this manuever. (If you use this method, you won't have to worry about your attitude indicator during the maneuver because you won't go over 60 degrees=one less thing to look at during your spirals)

Another thing to think about is your airspeed. With changing bank you're going to have to keep changing your pitch. Also, think about your point. Did you know the person in the right seat really can't see your point? That's your joker up your sleeve. They can tell if your way off course, but not just a little.

Also, I'm not sure what you fly, but in a 172RG about 75kts clean worked really well.

Okay I'm off now. I hope my novel helped out a bit. If your CFI doesn't know how to teach you something, tell them to get off their tail and learn how to do the maneuver. If they don't, just fly with someone else.
Did you know the person in the right seat really can't see your point? That's your joker up your sleeve. They can tell if your way off course, but not just a little.

This is true about the right seat, but when doing a cfi checkride, just remember to keep that in mind. The DE will have the good view this time!!!
I have been teaching this manuevre starting into the wind and your right a big problems is students roll it right to 60 degrees and are imeadiatly off thier point. I think I'll try your tip out tommorrow and see how it goes. As far as speeds FSI recomends best glide plus 10.
From reading this thread it seems that the accuracy landing isn't required on the FAA private test? Is that right?

I have my German private checkride coming up soon and that is one of the big things we have to do so we practice it a lot. When I first started doing them I commented on how fun they were. My instructor said I was the only person who said that. Later when I reached the point that I was supposed to be doing them correctly by myself I didn't find them as fun!

We do two kinds of these in training - from 1000 ft AGL starting opposite RWY heading to the right or the left of the RWY and from 2000 ft AGL directly over the numbers. It has given me a better feel for how to manage airspeed without the help of the engine.