Hammering the Point Home
The last of the fundamental aerobatic maneuvers is a funny little maneuver with a lot of names. Some pilots call it a hammerhead turn, others call it a hammer-head stall, still others a stalled turn. But it is commonly known as the hammerhead. For an aerobatic maneuver, it is unusual because of how slow the plane is flying when the hammerhead is performed. Here’s how it’s done.
By the Book
When a plane’s wing» are vertical instead of horizontal, pilots say they are in knife-edge flight Some aerobatic pilots stop the roll right at that knife-edge position and fly for several seconds that way. That means it is the body of the airplane, called the fuselage, that must act like a wing and produce enough lifting force to keep the airplane flying.
When you attend an air show, there are a few rules of common courtesy—as well as safety—that you should be sure to observe. First don’t touch any part of a display airplane, or for that matter any of the airplanes that are permanently parked at the airport. Also, remain behind all barrier ropes. They’re there to comply with federal regulations. And the most important rule of all: Have lots of fun!
At a relatively fast speed, the pilot pulls the nose up until it is pointed vertically to the sky. Keeping the engine at full throttle, the pilot holds the vertical flight path until the airspeed slows, then applies full rudder in one direction, let’s say toward the left.
The left rudder will cause the nose to swing left toward the left wing, and will cause the left wing to slice downward toward the ground. The pilot holds the controls this way until the airplane’s nose is pointed straight at the ground. As he descends and regains airspeed during a few seconds of being pointed straight at the ground, the pilot can gain enough speed from the combination of gravity and engine power to launch into other aerobatic maneuvers.
The hammerhead is a critical maneuver in competition aerobatics. Why? You can see that the pivot at the peak of the hammerhead has enabled the pilot to reverse his direction of flight. Part of the rules of international aerobatics contests is that pilots must perform their entire routine in an imaginary cube of only
1,000 meters (that’s about 3,300 feet). From the ground, that appears to be plenty of space, but from the air, the aerobatic box can seem as small as a postage stamp. The hammerhead enables pilots to make full use of that tiny space.