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Theo Van De Griendt

Changing direction at cruise 737-800


When ever I am flying a route in my zibo 738 on x-plane 11, I always wonder how they turn the plane from one airway to another without me noticing. I do not really understand how they do this because when I approach the next airway my autopilot decides to turn at a bank angle of 20 degrees which would not be very comfortable irl. Do pilots in real life just turn the plane really slowly?

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Most autopilots will typically bank anywhere between 25-30 degrees below FL250 and around 12-15 degrees above FL250. This is due to the loss of lift experienced while turning at higher altitudes.

However, I really don't think this is what you are experiencing. First of all, it generally is hard to feel/visualize the control movements as a passenger. A good example of this is while the airplane is in a cloud... 9 times out of 10 you probably wouldn't know if the aircraft was turning left or right as a passenger. Pilots have a better grasp of what is going on because they are looking at the instruments.

But I think the biggest factor is that most routes are generally straight and attempt to follow a great circle routing. This means that there are very few "bends" in the route where a large change in direction is required. Also, in the real world, ATC are constantly giving shortcuts to aircraft which tends to "straighten" the route significantly.

Hope this helps.


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