Chapter 9—Performance Maneuvers

Table of Contents
Performance Maneuvers
    Steep Turns
    Steep Spiral
    Lazy Eight


The lazy eight is a maneuver designed to develop perfect coordination of controls through a wide range of airspeeds and altitudes so that certain accuracy points are reached with planned attitude and airspeed. In its execution, the dive, climb, and turn are all combined, and the combinations are varied and applied throughout the performance range of the airplane. It is the only standard flight training maneuver during which at no time do the forces on the controls remain constant.

The lazy eight as a training maneuver has great value since constantly varying forces and attitudes are required. These forces must be constantly coordinated, due not only to the changing combinations of banks, dives, and climbs, but also to the constantly varying airspeed. The maneuver helps develop subconscious feel, planning, orientation, coordination, and speed sense. It is not possible to do a lazy eight mechanically, because the control pressures required for perfect coordination are never exactly the same.

This maneuver derives its name from the manner in which the extended longitudinal axis of the airplane is made to trace a flight pattern in the form of a figure 8 lying on its side (a lazy 8). [Figure 9-4]

Lazy eight Figure 9-4. Lazy eight.

A lazy eight consists of two 180° turns, in opposite directions, while making a climb and a descent in a symmetrical pattern during each of the turns. At no time throughout the lazy eight is the airplane flown straight and level; instead, it is rolled directly from one bank to the other with the wings level only at the moment the turn is reversed at the completion of each 180° change in heading.

As an aid to making symmetrical loops of the 8 during each turn, prominent reference points should be selected on the horizon. The reference points selected should be 45°, 90°, and 135° from the direction in which the maneuver is begun.

Prior to performing a lazy eight, the airspace behind and above should be clear of other air traffic. The maneuver should be entered from straight-and-level flight at normal cruise power and at the airspeed recommended by the manufacturer or at the airplane’s design maneuvering speed.

The maneuver is started from level flight with a gradual climbing turn in the direction of the 45° reference point. The climbing turn should be planned and controlled so that the maximum pitch-up attitude is reached at the 45° point. The rate of rolling into the bank must be such as to prevent the rate of turn from becoming too rapid. As the pitch attitude is raised, the airspeed decreases, causing the rate of turn to increase. Since the bank also is being increased, it too causes the rate of turn to increase. Unless the maneuver is begun with a slow rate of roll, the combination of increasing pitch and increasing bank will cause the rate of turn to be so rapid that the 45° reference point will be reached before the highest pitch attitude is attained.

At the 45° point, the pitch attitude should be at maximum and the angle of bank continuing to increase. Also, at the 45° point, the pitch attitude should start to decrease slowly toward the horizon and the 90° reference point. Since the airspeed is still decreasing, right-rudder pressure will have to be applied to counteract torque.

As the airplane’s nose is being lowered toward the 90° reference point, the bank should continue to increase. Due to the decreasing airspeed, a slight amount of opposite aileron pressure may be required to prevent the bank from becoming too steep. When the airplane completes 90° of the turn, the bank should be at the maximum angle (approximately 30°), the airspeed should be at its minimum (5 to 10 knots above stall speed), and the airplane pitch attitude should be passing through level flight. It is at this time that an imaginary line, extending from the pilot’s eye and parallel to the longitudinal axis of the airplane, passes through the 90° reference point.

Lazy eights normally should be performed with no more than approximately a 30° bank. Steeper banks may be used, but control touch and technique must be developed to a much higher degree than when the maneuver is performed with a shallower bank.

The pilot should not hesitate at this point but should continue to fly the airplane into a descending turn so that the airplane’s nose describes the same size loop below the horizon as it did above. As the pilot’s reference line passes through the 90° point, the bank should be decreased gradually, and the airplane’s nose allowed to continue lowering. When the airplane has turned 135°, the nose should be in its lowest pitch attitude. The airspeed will be increasing during this descending turn, so it will be necessary to gradually relax rudder and aileron pressure and to simultaneously raise the nose and roll the wings level. As this is being accomplished, the pilot should note the amount of turn remaining and adjust the rate of rollout and pitch change so that the wings become level and the original airspeed is attained in level flight just as the 180° point is reached. Upon returning to the starting altitude and the 180° point, a climbing turn should be started immediately in the opposite direction toward the selected reference points to complete the second half of the eight in the same manner as the first half. [Figure 9-5]

Lazy eight Figure 9-5. Lazy eight.

Due to the decreasing airspeed, considerable right- rudder pressure is gradually applied to counteract torque at the top of the eight in both the right and left turns. The pressure will be greatest at the point of lowest airspeed.

More right-rudder pressure will be needed during the climbing turn to the right than in the turn to the left because more torque correction is needed to prevent yaw from decreasing the rate of turn. In the left climbing turn, the torque will tend to contribute to the turn; consequently, less rudder pressure is needed. It will be noted that the controls are slightly crossed in the right climbing turn because of the need for left aileron pressure to prevent overbanking and right rudder to overcome torque


The correct power setting for the lazy eight is that which will maintain the altitude for the maximum and minimum airspeeds used during the climbs and descents of the eight. Obviously, if excess power were used, the airplane would have gained altitude when the maneuver is completed; if insufficient power were used, altitude would have been lost.

Common errors in the performance of lazy eights are:

  • Failure to adequately clear the area.
  • Using the nose, or top of engine cowl, instead of the true longitudinal axis, resulting in unsymmetrical loops.
  • Watching the airplane instead of the reference points.
  • Inadequate planning, resulting in the peaks of the loops both above and below the horizon not coming in the proper place.
  • Control roughness, usually caused by attempts to counteract poor planning.
  • Persistent gain or loss of altitude with the completion of each eight.
  • Attempting to perform the maneuver rhythmically, resulting in poor pattern symmetry.
  • Allowing the airplane to “fall” out of the tops of the loops rather than flying the airplane through the maneuver.
  • Slipping and/or skidding.
  • Failure to scan for other traffic.

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PED Publication