by Charles Gulick
On a Roll
Republic Airport, Farmingdale, L.I., NY (Local)
North: 17083. East: 21178. Altitude: 5000.
Pitch: 0. Bank: 0. Heading: 10.
Airspeed: Cessna 124. Airspeed: Piper 126.
Throttle: Cessna 23543. Throttle: Piper 27607.
Rudder: 32767. Ailerons: 32767. Flaps: 0.
Elevators: Cessna 32767. Elevators: Piper 36863.
Time: 14:30. Season: 3. Clouds: 0.
Wind Level 1: 5 kn., 0 deg. Surface Wind: 5 kn., 0 deg.
You're straight and level at 5000 feet, headed out over Long Island Sound. The notch of water ahead is Huntington Bay, and to the left of it is Oyster Bay, where President Teddy Roosevelt had a “Summer White House” and where his grave is. If you look straight down, you'll probably see one or both of Republic's runways.
You're here to learn how to do an aileron roll from straight and level, so let's get to it:
Cessna, give two quick notches of up elevator, followed by full right aileron. When the horizon is nearly vertical, apply full down elevator and hold it while you turn over on your back. Let the roll continue until the horizon is almost vertical again, then quickly return your elevator to approximate neutral. When the wings are about to become level, neutralize your ailerons.
Piper, add one notch of throttle, followed by full right aileron. When the horizon is nearly vertical, give four quick notches of down elevator and hold it while you turn over on your back. Let the roll continue until the horizon is nearly vertical again, then give four quick notches of up elevator. When the wings are coming level, neutralize your ailerons and take off the notch of power you added at the outset.
Note: Cessna rolls beautifully in this example and others to come. Piper (at least the Commodore 64 version), I'm sorry to say, rolls inconsistently, convulsively, and violently. I confess I have never been able to roll it with relative smoothness more than once in ten tries, and believe me I have tried—in many configurations and at many speeds—to the point where I want to crash it and let it stay crashed. The technique suggested in the aerobatic section of the flight manual simply doesn't work—at least not for me. Further, I can't conceive a roll that involves no forward pressure on the yoke at any time, but none is mentioned in the manual.
Perhaps you're flying Piper and have developed a good roll technique. If so, let me know how you did it, because I'd love to pass it on. Until then, I'll attribute the problem to the inability of the Piper computers to process information fast enough. Indeed, in mid-roll, I've seen my Piper get completely confused as to what graphic it was supposed to be displaying. And the aileron reaches the “full” position so slowly that the wing is almost vertical before you can get your elevators in the right position to hold your altitude in the roll—not to mention getting the elevators back up to neutral before you go into a dive, sickeningly, like in the old movies.
All that said, Piper, I must use the next chapter to show Cessna pilots the beautiful rolls they can do in their aircraft. I think you'll agree that it wouldn't be fair to deprive them of these. That would be like penalizing them because they happen to have higher-performance machines. And don't forget that if you switch to Cessna someday, you'll be glad to have had this special information.
So Piper pilots, use this time for practicing half rolls, which require centering your ailerons just as you become inverted and flying along upside down until you feel like rolling out again. You can do that using the present mode. Remember that your elevator control will seem to act in reverse, though it's really your perception that's reversed. To see more sky, give some down elevator. To see more earth, use some up elevator. You can also read the next chapter for some other tips, even though it is Cessna-specific.
And Cessna, come along with me. I have some things to show you.