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Technique: Canyon turn

A Last-Ditch Escape Maneuver

Pilots don’t intend to fly into dead-end canyons, but it happens. For this reason, pilots should practice minimum-radius “canyon turns” before they start flying in the mountains. Refine your technique and, if the unthinkable ever happens, you’ll increase your odds of a safe escape.

Here’s how it works.

Illustration by Charles Floyd
Click image to enlarge.
Make the math work for you

Airspeed is under your control

The radius of a turn equals the velocity squared divided by the constant of 11.26 times the tangent of the bank angle in degrees. Simply put, the pilot only controls two variables: airspeed and bank angle.

A 30-degree bank at 120 knots results in a turn radius of 2,215 feet. But slow to 80 knots, and a 30-degree bank produces a turn radius of just 985 feet.

Why not bank even steeper? In a coordinated turn, stall speed increases at the square of the load factor. In a 60-degree bank level turn, load factor doubles, and the stall speed increases about 40 percent. If a pilot turns too steeply, a higher stall speed outweighs any benefit.

Dave Hirschman
Dave Hirschman
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.

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