Helicopter Hovering Turn Technique and Errors

A hovering turn is a maneuver performed at hovering altitude in which the nose of the helicopter is rotated either left or right while maintaining position over a reference point on the surface. Hovering turns can also be made around the mast or tail of the aircraft. The maneuver requires the coordination of all flight controls and demands precise control near the surface. A pilot should maintain a constant altitude, rate of turn, and rpm.


Initiate the turn in either direction by applying anti-torque pedal pressure toward the desired direction. It should be noted that during a turn to the left, more power is required because left pedal pressure increases the pitch angle of the tail rotor, which, in turn, requires additional power from the engine. A turn to the right requires less power. (On helicopters with a clockwise rotating main rotor, right pedal increases the pitch angle and, therefore, requires more power.)

As the turn begins, use the cyclic as necessary (usually into the wind) to keep the helicopter over the desired spot. To continue the turn, add more pedal pressure as the helicopter turns to the crosswind position. This is because the wind is striking the tail surface and tail rotor area, making it more difficult for the tail to turn into the wind. As pedal pressures increase due to crosswind forces, increase the cyclic pressure into the wind to maintain position. Use the collective with the throttle to maintain a constant altitude and rpm. [Figure 1]

Helicopter Flight Maneuvers
Figure 1. Left turns in helicopters with a counterclockwise rotating main rotor are more difficult to execute because the tail rotor demands more power. This requires you to compensate with additional left pedal and increased throttle. Refer to this graphic throughout the remainder of the discussion on a hovering turn to the left

After the 90° portion of the turn, decrease pedal pressure slightly to maintain the same rate of turn. Approaching the 180°, or downwind portion, anticipate opposite pedal pressure due to the tail moving from an upwind position to a downwind position. At this point, the rate of turn has a tendency to increase at a rapid rate due to the tendency of the tail surfaces to weathervane. Because of the tailwind condition, hold rearward cyclic pressure to keep the helicopter over the same spot.

The horizontal stabilizer has a tendency to lift the tail during a tailwind condition. This is the most difficult portion of the hovering turn. Horizontal and vertical stabilizers have several different designs and locations, including the canted stabilizers used on some Hughes and Schweizer helicopters. The primary purpose of the vertical stabilizer is to unload the work of the antitorque system and to aid in trimming the helicopter in flight should the antitorque system fail. The horizontal stabilizer provides for a more usable CG range and aids in trimming the helicopter longitudinally. Because of the helicopter’s tendency to weathervane, maintaining the same rate of turn from the 180° position actually requires some pedal pressure opposite the direction of turn. If a pilot does not apply opposite pedal pressure, the helicopter tends to turn at a faster rate. The amount of pedal pressure and cyclic deflection throughout the turn depends on the wind velocity. As the turn is finished on the upwind heading, apply opposite pedal pressure to stop the turn. Gradually apply forward cyclic pressure to keep the helicopter from drifting.

Control pressures and direction of application change continuously throughout the turn. The most dramatic change is the pedal pressure (and corresponding power requirement) necessary to control the rate of turn as the helicopter moves through the downwind portion of the maneuver.

Turns can be made in either direction; however, in a high wind condition, the tail rotor may not be able to produce enough thrust, which means the pilot cannot control a turn to the right in a counterclockwise rotor system. Therefore, if control is ever questionable, first attempt to make a 90° turn to the left. If sufficient tail rotor thrust exists to turn the helicopter crosswind in a left turn, a right turn can be successfully controlled. The opposite applies to helicopters with clockwise rotor systems. In this case, start the turn to the right. Hovering turns should be avoided in winds strong enough to preclude sufficient aft cyclic control to maintain the helicopter on the selected surface reference point when headed downwind. Check the flight manual for the manufacturer’s recommendations for this limitation.

Common Errors

1. Failing to maintain a slow, constant rate of turn.
2. Failing to maintain position over the reference point.
3. Failing to maintain rpm within normal range.
4. Failing to maintain constant altitude.
5. Failing to use the antitorque pedals properly.