The Secret to Perfect Ground Reference Maneuvers

Ground reference maneuvers are an important part of private pilot training. I am about to tell you a trick that will make your ground reference maneuvers so much easier, but it comes with a disclaimer.

When I teach ground reference maneuvers I don’t break out this trick until after the student has demonstrated that they can fly the maneuvers properly by the book.

Before you use this trick please make sure that you understand how the wind affects your groundspeed and how your groundspeed affects the radius of your turn. You should be practiced in determining the approximate bank angle needed based on the wind conditions.

How to fly a perfect ground reference maneuver

As you approach the beginning of the maneuver and visualize your starting point, imagine the rest of your track laid out on the ground.

For example, if you are flying turns around a point, then visualize a circle around your chosen point. Now look at the ground along that circle and choose some checkpoints. These could be houses, roads, trees, or even just a spot in a field.

Remember your chosen points, and then simply fly over them. For turns around a point, you should usually choose just 4 to 6 points, but you can easily decide how many you need as you approach the point. This works just as well for s turns and rectangular course. As you are approaching each new turn in the maneuver, choose some more points and fly over them.

If it is windy you will need to apply the proper amount of bank, but your brain will make this judgment during the turn as you try to just put the airplane in position.

To make these maneuvers perfect, apply a combination of this trick, and the wind planning normally used in the maneuver.