Many years ago I took an introductory free (+fuel) flying lesson in a dual-control small aircraft (instructor in right seat) at a small city's municipal airport. There was a third passenger in the back. Near the end there was a report of a helicopter near the airport but there was some confusion as to the location.

When the instructor took us back down they did so in an unusual and exciting way, possibly to impress the third passenger, possibly trying to get back to the ground as quickly as possible because of the situation with the helicopter.

We were descending pitched substantially down, looking at the ground in the distance and with a startling amount of yaw with the right wing advanced by (estimate from memory) 20 degrees!

Is there a name for a descent like this? Are there standard reasons for it?

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    $\begingroup$ I don't want to dismiss your question but perhaps it was a completely normal maneuver. It might have seemed excessive at the time but from what you describe - "many years ago" and "from memory" - it's possible that it just felt more dramatic than it really was. For example, a forward slip is a standard technique, even if it might seem dramatic to passengers (and I probably wouldn't do it with non-pilots on board unless I needed to). $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Jan 27 at 2:10
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    $\begingroup$ If there were a strong cross-wind, that would be the normal procedure for landing. $\endgroup$ – Ray Butterworth Jan 27 at 2:15
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    $\begingroup$ If not for a cross-wind, then perhaps using a standard glider technique for losing altitude quickly (without falling down). The "Gimli Glider" was an extreme example of this, a Boeing 767 with dead engines, too close to an airport to land, and too close to the ground to circle around. $\endgroup$ – Ray Butterworth Jan 27 at 2:22
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    $\begingroup$ It's bad form to do forward slips to lose altitude on intro flights. Scares people. $\endgroup$ – John K Jan 27 at 3:29
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    $\begingroup$ My instructor asked me if he could do a short-field takeoff on my discovery/intro flight. He then did a practice no-flap landing. Luckily, I had done air tours in pretty much every type of aircraft including an aerobatic glider by that time. Still not as stomach-turning as flying high speed nap-of-the-earth right before an airborne operation. $\endgroup$ – Dean F. Jan 27 at 6:54

Sounds like a Forward Slip. It is not an unusual maneuver. It is very useful in order to descend faster than normal (Vertical Speed) without increasing your airspeed. The maneuver reduces the amount of lift generated while at the same time creating a large amount of drag by presenting the broad side of the fuselage to the relative wind.

Did the instructor happen to reduce the throttle to idle right before the maneuver?

It is also a great maneuver to practice in case a no-flap landing is needed due to flap failure.

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    $\begingroup$ A forward slip can provide very substantial descent rates with full flaps! $\endgroup$ – mongo Jan 27 at 13:46
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    $\begingroup$ It can also give you better visibility ahead as you descend. $\endgroup$ – Wayne Conrad Jan 27 at 13:49

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