Video: My first hammerhead turns

image of airshow performer flying a hammerhead turn

Hammerhead turn

The Hammerhead Turn is a fun maneuver. It’s a challenging combination of all three planes of motion, plus the fourth dimension of time: there are two quarter loop components to pull in pitch changes courtesy of the elevator, a roll component (to counteract torque at low airspeed and asymmetrical lift) to exercise aileron control, and of course the yaw component where we get to kick the rudder to turn around at the top. Plus it gets us close to the zero airspeed regime.

There is more going on here than I can keep track of now. For the moment the important parts are the pull up, the yaw turn around the top, and the pull out. Eventually I need to add these parts:

  1. Consistently hold the 4g pull from level to vertical
  2. Timing the turn around. Done correctly, the airplane pivots around its center of mass in less than a wingspan. Too early leaves the airspeed too high and the airplane “flies” through a wingover, instead of pivoting. Too late and it falls backward into a sloppy tailslide.
  3. Find the exact mix of right- and then forward-stick to keep the turnaround in the same vertical plane. The outside wing is traveling faster so it’s generating more lift, than the inside wing, which results in left-rolling tendency that is counteracted with right-stick. Forward-stick counters the gyroscopic force from the spinning propeller trying to pull the nose up.
  4. Timing the turn stop. Without right-rudder the nose will swing through the bottom, past vertical. The engine and propeller make an effective pendulum weight.
  5. Timing the vertical down-line and nailing the 4g pull-out to finish on target in both airspeed and altitude.

It looks so easy from the ground!

Here is video evidence of my first attempts…preserved for all time (at least until electrons are obsolete). I hope to look back at this clip 5000 hammerheads from now and shake my head at how anemic my skills used to be.

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