Today's mission, as John Greenwood likes to call these lessons, was to begin doing hammerheads. He'd told me last time that it would be inverted turns, so I did them in my head for two weeks and was ready to do some for real today. But he decided to move me on to more complicated maneuvers, and that means hammerheads.
Hammerheads are fun, but tricky. They're sort of extreme wingovers. You nose it down and accelerate to 180 (in the Pitts S-2A) and then pull straight up, adding some right rudder and forward stick to keep pointing straight up, holding that attitude until the airplane stops moving. As you pull up, you begin looking to the left, seeing how the wing is related to the horizon, trying to keep aware of what the airplane is doing. When upward movement ceases, it's time to slice the airplane around to the left and head back down the way you've come. While keeping the same forward pressure, you give it pretty much full left rudder and right aileron. The left rudder pivots you around the left wingtip, while the right aileron, together with the forward pressure, keeps the outside wing (which is moving faster and therefore developing more lift) from flipping you into an inverted flat spin. Too much forward pressure and you're in an upright flat spin. The nose comes around to the horizon and you let it come around until you're heading straight down. You have to have "happy feet," Greenwood says--right rudder and then left rudder again--to stop the rotation and get pointed straight down. Finally, you pull the nose up to the horizon, and if everything has gone well, you're at the same altitude you began at, but are heading in exactly the opposite direction.
Ah, well, each time I managed to change direction by at least 180 degrees and end up at some altitude or other. The first one was ragged, but after four or five, I was beginning to get the hang of it--sort of.
After six or eight hammerheads, he had me do a loop and then some cuban-eights. Then the half hour was nearly over and we headed home. On the way I tried a couple of slow rolls and determined conclusively that it's the last quarter of the roll that gets my semicircular canals in a tizzy. I'd felt super right up to that time. Very annoying! I don't know what to do about it.
Just as an aside, I might mention that Greenwood said he'd had a thrill ride passenger blow his lunch all over the inside of the cockpit a couple of days ago. Said the guy was 6' 5" and 240 pounds, and had filled up a plastic grocery bag, then spewed the rest everywhere. It's all crevices and things in there--made even worse because the smoke tank, with its valve mechanism, sits right between the front seater's knees--and it evidently took two people about an hour to clean it up. Except that they didn't get it all. Greenwood said he had a lesson later that day and found puddles of puke on the floor in front of him. On the floor, that is, until they went inverted.
As I was flying back to the airport, descending from 2500 to pattern altitude, I just left the throttle set as it had been for the rolls. Greenwood didn't touch it, either, and soon I noticed that we were doing 180 mph at about 1000 feet. By the time we entered the pattern on crosswind, we were still doing nearly 150. Exhilarating.
Back to "Learning
My home page.