Aerial Panorama Photographs: The Utility of the Practical Test Standard Maneuvers

I frequently hear complaints about the PTS maneuvers and it generally follows this path. Why do I have to learn these, what good are they? This is stupid, it doesn’t show that I can fly. I can do these with my eyes shut. Why can’t I go below 400’, it doesn’t matter. What do you mean, pink slip? But demonstrating precise control of the aircraft to the designated pilot examiner is one of the tools the FAA uses to ensure we are competent to fly. I have used one of the PTS maneuvers, the steep banked turn, to demonstrate why precise control is a good thing to know. One of my goals has been to translate what I see and feel when flying into pictures, videos, and words that others can relate to, to generate the desire in others to fly weight shift control aircraft. My recent experiments have centered on panoramic photographs. Now flying around in circles sounds simple but in reality to generate a panoramic photograph requires multi-tasking since both aircraft control and stable photography take place at the same time. If aircraft control consisted of flailing around the sky in some sort of circular path with changing altitudes then the photography would be impossible. A precise flight path and altitude control of the 45 degree steep bank turn is required to allow the capture of uniformly centered photographs required for the panoramic composite.

Here are 2 examples of panoramas made at the hard deck for ground reference maneuvers (400’), yes, I know 1000’ is the hard deck for performance maneuvers so I get a pink slip for flying a performance maneuver at a ground reference maneuver altitude. One panorama is looking south and one is centered on the northeast. Both were taken from the intersection of Highway 9 and 80 in the San Simon Valley just before an afternoon monsoon blew in. I was able to take the 10 or so photographs in each panorama only by precisely controlling the aircraft in the steep bank turn. So, if for no other reason than to gain the ability to make good panoramic photographs I would suggest practicing the steep bank turn, and if your in student mode here is a useful reason to learn the maneuver precisely.

I’m working on the complete 360 view but it requires a lot of computer memory and takes time to generate the panoramic images.

Looking south down the San Simon Valley, the Chiricahua Mountains on the right and the Pelocillo Mountains on the left.

Looking northest to the Peloncillo Mountains
Click photographs to enlarge and open in a new window.


  1. I love taking panorama pictures on the ground. I think it would probably be more fun taking them from above. I wonder if you have to have a special camera to do it that way.

    Aerial VP

  2. No I don't. I use a simple point and shoot camera but use the aircraft as a tripod and fly around a nodal point to get the proper orientation for my photographs.

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