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Airplane Flying Handbook
Ground Reference Maneuvers
Maneuvering By Reference To Ground Objects

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Airplane Flying Handbook


Table of Contents

Chapter 1,Introduction to Flight Training
Chapter 2,Ground Operations
Chapter 3,Basic Flight Maneuvers
Chapter 4, Slow Flight, Stalls, and Spins
Chapter 5, Takeoff and Departure Climbs
Chapter 6, Ground Reference Maneuvers
Chapter 7, Airport Traffic Patterns
Chapter 8, Approaches and Landings
Chapter 9, Performance Maneuvers
Chapter 10, Night Operations
Chapter 11,Transition to Complex Airplanes
Chapter 12, Transition to Multiengine Airplanes
Chapter 13,Transition to Tailwheel Airplanes
Chapter 14, Transition to Turbo-propeller Powered Airplanes
Chapter 15,Transition to Jet Powered Airplanes
Chapter 16,Emergency Procedures



Ground Reference Maneuvers

Ground reference maneuvers and their related factors
are used in developing a high degree of pilot skill.
Although most of these maneuvers are not performed
as such in normal everyday flying, the elements and
principles involved in each are applicable to performance
of the customary pilot operations. They aid the
pilot in analyzing the effect of wind and other forces
acting on the airplane and in developing a fine control
touch, coordination, and the division of attention
necessary for accurate and safe maneuvering of the

All of the early part of the pilot's training has been conducted
at relatively high altitudes, and for the purpose
of developing technique, knowledge of maneuvers,
coordination, feel, and the handling of the airplane in
general. This training will have required that most of
the pilot's attention be given to the actual handling of
the airplane, and the results of control pressures on the
action and attitude of the airplane.

If permitted to continue beyond the appropriate training
stage, however, the student pilot's concentration of
attention will become a fixed habit, one that will seriously
detract from the student's ease and safety as a
pilot, and will be very difficult to eliminate. Therefore,
it is necessary, as soon as the pilot shows proficiency in
the fundamental maneuvers, that the pilot be introduced
to maneuvers requiring outside attention on a practical
application of these maneuvers and the knowledge

It should be stressed that, during ground reference
maneuvers, it is equally important that basic flying
technique previously learned be maintained. The
flight instructor should not allow any relaxation of the
student's previous standard of technique simply
because a new factor is added. This requirement
should be maintained throughout the student's
progress from maneuver to maneuver. Each new
maneuver should embody some advance and include
the principles of the preceding one in order that continuity
be maintained. Each new factor introduced
should be merely a step-up of one already learned so
that orderly, consistent progress can be made.


Ground track or ground reference maneuvers are performed
at a relatively low altitude while applying wind
drift correction as needed to follow a predetermined
track or path over the ground. They are designed to
develop the ability to control the airplane, and to recognize
and correct for the effect of wind while dividing
attention among other matters. This requires planning
ahead of the airplane, maintaining orientation in relation
to ground objects, flying appropriate headings to follow
a desired ground track, and being cognizant of other air
traffic in the immediate vicinity.

Ground reference maneuvers should be flown at an altitude
of approximately 600 to 1,000 feet AGL. The
actual altitude will depend on the speed and type of airplane
to a large extent, and the following factors should
be considered.

• The speed with relation to the ground should not
be so apparent that events happen too rapidly.
• The radius of the turn and the path of the airplane
over the ground should be easily noted and
changes planned and effected as circumstances
• Drift should be easily discernible, but not tax the
student too much in making corrections.
• Objects on the ground should appear in their proportion
and size.
• The altitude should be low enough to render any
gain or loss apparent to the student, but in no case
lower than 500 feet above the highest obstruction.

During these maneuvers, both the instructor and the
student should be alert for available forced-landing
fields. The area chosen should be away from communities,
livestock, or groups of people to prevent possible
annoyance or hazards to others. Due to the altitudes at
which these maneuvers are performed, there is little
time available to search for a suitable field for landing
in the event the need arises.