How to fly the perfect chandelle

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...
3 min read

A chandelle is a maximum performance, 180° climbing turn that begins from approximately straight-and-level flight and concludes with the airplane in a wings-level, nose-high attitude just above stall speed. The goal of the Commercial pilot maneuver is to gain the most altitude possible for a given bank angle and power setting to help develop positive control techniques at varying airspeeds and attitudes while remaining oriented and coordinated.

The Commercial pilot standards include reaching an airspeed that is just above stall speed at completion with minimum altitude loss during recovery. There should be 180° of heading change ±10° with bank angle not to exceed 30°.

A chandelle is best described in two specific phases: the first 90° of turn and the second 90° of turn. The first 90° of turn is described as constant bank and continuously increasing pitch; and the second 90° as constant pitch and continuously decreasing bank. During the first 90°, the pilot will set the bank angle, increase power, and increase pitch attitude at a rate such that maximum pitch-up occurs at the completion of the first 90°. The maximum pitch-up attitude achieved at the 90° mark is held for the remainder of the maneuver.


If the pitch attitude is set too low, the airplane’s airspeed will never decrease to just above stall speed. If the pitch attitude is set too high, the airplane may aerodynamically stall prior to completion of the maneuver. Starting at the 90° point, and while maintaining the pitch attitude set at the end of the first 90°, the pilot begins a slow and coordinated constant rate rollout so as to have the wings level when the airplane is at the 180° point. If the rate of rollout is too rapid or sluggish, the airplane either exceeds the 180° turn or does not complete the turn as the wings come level to the horizon.

Follow these steps to execute the perfect Chandelle:

1. Select an altitude that will allow the maneuver to be performed no lower than 1500 feet AGL. Select a prominent reference point off the wing tip. Clear the area and establish the manufacturer’s recommended entry speed or maneuvering speed (VA) if one is not recommended.

2. Enter a coordinated 30° bank turn in the direction of the reference point. Simultaneously apply power, as appropriate, and smoothly increase the pitch attitude so as to obtain a pitch at the 90° point which, when maintained, will result in the aircraft slowing to just above the power-on stall speed at the completion of the 180° turn. As airspeed decreases during the chandelle, left-turning tendencies will have a greater effect so right rudder pressure is progressively increased to ensure that the airplane remains coordinated.

3. Maintain coordination and a constant 30° bank angle during the first 90° of turn.

4. After passing the 90° point, maintain coordination and begin a slow, constant rollout so as to arrive at the wings level position just as the 180° turn is completed. After the 90° point, the back pressure should be adjusted, as necessary, to maintain a constant pitch attitude until reaching the 180° point. When the airspeed is slowest at completion of the chandelle, right rudder pressure is significant, especially when rolling out from a left chandelle due to left adverse yaw and left-turning tendencies. When rolling out from a right chandelle, the yawing moment is to the right which partially cancels some of the left-turning tendency’s effect.

5. Upon reaching the 180° point, the aircraft should be held momentarily just above stall airspeed with the wings level.

6. Upon completion, maintain the final altitude and accelerate to normal cruise.

Eric Radtke