Before any maneuver you might perform in an airplane, it is important to do a clearing turn. This is simply a turn made to give you visibility and time to look for traffic all around you.
Clearing turns are required for a safe flight, and required to pass the checkride!
Classic Clearing Turns
To perform a clearing turn first look for traffic around the airplane. Then begin a 90 degree turn and look for traffic around you.
If you are in a high-wing you should scan for traffic in front of you and away from the direction of the turn until you level out on your new heading. In a low-wing, look in front of you and in the direction you are turning.
Once you have turned 90 degrees take a second or two to scan for traffic. Then begin a turn back to your original heading and look for traffic again.
This maneuver gives you time to look for traffic in almost every possible direction and it makes your aircraft more visible to other planes approaching the area.
Alternate Clearing Turns
The “classic” clearing turn procedure above, is useful in most cases, but sometimes it is helpful to do a clearing turn a different way. Any sensible clearing turn is ok as long as it gives you enough visibility and time to find other planes.
The most common alternative is the full 180 clearing turn. This is useful if you wish to begin your next maneuver facing in a new direction. Begin by scanning for traffic in level flight. Then make a normal 180 degree turn and look for traffic until you are established on your new heading.
You might also stop at a 90 degree heading for a moment before continuing the turn. The choice is up to you.
The hardest part of clearing turns is to remember to do them so build the habit now. If you use your home simulator for serious practice please do clearing turns there too.