Chapter 6—Ground Reference Maneuvers

Purpose and Scope
Maneuvering By Reference to Ground Objects
Drift and Ground Track Control
Rectangular Course
S-Turns Across a Road
Turns Around a Point
Elementary Eights
    Eights Along a Road
    Eights Across a Road
    Eights Around Pylons
    Eights-On-Pylons (Pylon Eights)
Table of Contents


This training maneuver is an application of the same principles and techniques of correcting for wind drift as used in turns around a point and the same objectives as other ground track maneuvers. In this case, two points or pylons on the ground are used as references, and turns around each pylon are made in opposite directions to follow a ground track in the form of a figure 8. [Figure 6-9]

Eights around pylons

Figure 6-9. Eights around pylons.

The pattern involves flying downwind between the pylons and upwind outside of the pylons. It may include a short period of straight-and-level flight while proceeding diagonally from one pylon to the other.

The pylons selected should be on a line 90° to the direction of the wind and should be in an area away from communities, livestock, or groups of people, to avoid possible annoyance or hazards to others. The area selected should be clear of hazardous obstructions and other air traffic. Throughout the maneuver a constant altitude of at least 500 feet above the ground should be maintained.

The eight should be started with the airplane on a downwind heading when passing between the pylons. The distance between the pylons and the wind velocity will determine the initial angle of bank required to maintain a constant radius from the pylons during each turn. The steepest banks will be necessary just after each turn entry and just before the rollout from each turn where the airplane is headed downwind and the groundspeed is greatest; the shallowest banks will be when the airplane is headed directly upwind and the groundspeed is least.

The rate of bank change will depend on the wind velocity, the same as it does in S-turns and turns around a point, and the bank will be changing continuously during the turns. The adjustment of the bank angle should be gradual from the steepest bank to the shallowest bank as the airplane progressively heads into the wind, followed by a gradual increase until the steepest bank is again reached just prior to rollout. If the airplane is to proceed diagonally from one turn to the other, the rollout from each turn must be completed on the proper heading with sufficient wind correction angle to ensure that after brief straight-and-level flight, the airplane will arrive at the point where a turn of the same radius can be made around the other pylon. The straight-and-level flight segments must be tangent to both circular patterns.

Common errors in the performance of elementary eights are:

  • Failure to adequately clear the area.
  • Poor choice of ground reference points.
  • Improper maneuver entry considering wind direction and ground reference points.
  • Incorrect initial bank.
  • Poor coordination during turns.
  • Gaining or losing altitude.
  • Loss of orientation.
  • Abrupt rather than smooth changes in bank angle to counteract wind drift in turns.
  • Failure to anticipate needed drift correction.
  • Failure to apply needed drift correction in a timely manner.
  • Failure to roll out of turns on proper heading.
  • Inability to divide attention between reference points on the ground, airplane control, and scanning for other aircraft.

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PED Publication