Hammerhead turns

We all know of some ag pilots who make hammerhead turns, and maybe you are one of those who do make these hammerhead turns. It is my contention that those ag pilots who continue to make turns like this, will one day not be able to pull out of the dive in time and the

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We all know of some ag pilots who make hammerhead turns, and maybe you are one of those who do make these hammerhead turns. It is my contention that those ag pilots who continue to make turns like this, will one day not be able to pull out of the dive in time and the ground will rise up and smite them a fatal blow. Too bad. But these ag pilots who make turns like this are not my primary concern. My beef is that they set a horrible example for rookie ag pilots. Under the correct circumstances, as in a severe skidding turn while attempting a hammerhead turn, the airplane will suddenly and without warning snap-roll to the inverted position. When this happens at 600-700’ agl, there is very little chance of recovering control of the airplane. I do know of one case where the pilot was able to get the airplane right-side-up by stomping a rudder pedal a split second before the airplane slammed into the ground. He hit so hard that the airplane did not slide 20 feet from the initial point of contact with the ground. The fuselage broke in half and both wings broke at the fuselage and hit the ground. The pilot survived, but sustained very serious injuries.

Recently I overheard two of our students talking and using hand gestures about an ag pilot that one of them knows who continuously pulls his AT-502 nearly vertical, kicks a rudder and falls right back onto his next swath. The student’s obvious admiration for this seasoned ag pilot really bothered me. In Wayne Handley’s excellent film, Turn Smart, he demonstrates a hammerhead turn. In my opinion, he should not have included this in an otherwise, outstanding training film. Still, I do have all of my students watch this film. It’s my opinion that making hammerhead turns all day is like playing Russian Roulette. The odds are in your favor (one in six), that you will make a successful hammerhead turn, just like the odds are in your favor the live cartridge will not line up with the firing pin of your revolver. But, just keep on spinning the cylinder. BANG!

And so as per always and in the correct order, be safe, have fun, and make money,

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  • Will Crump
    November 3, 2018, 2:37 pm

    I have never flown the first second of ag. I have, however, been friends with several ag-pilots over the years and they all told me the same thing:

    1. There are OLD ag-pilots.
    2. There are BOLD ag-pilots
    3. But there are NO OLD, BOLD ag-pilots

    A veteran ag-pilot I knew and was good friends with right here in Bolivar, TN never once in his career pulled a hammerhead turn. Heck, I never saw him even do what could be considered a steep wing-over turn. He made procedure turns right up til the end.

    Something happened to James "J.T." Taylor on Aug. 27, 2014 in-flight. He snagged a set of cross-country power transmission cables and perished in the resulting crash. He was flying a 1973 or 74 C-A188B Ag-Wagon with an IO-520 285 HP fuel injected power plant. The speedometer was pegged at 123 MPH, the flaps were at zero degrees and the throttle was full forward, so whatever happened to him happened fast because as I understand it (I’M NO AG-PILOT, NOT EVEN A PRIVATE OR RECREATIONAL PILOT) if he knew he was going to go down, he would have chopped the throttle and dropped the flaps to bleed off as much airspeed as possible. This is a veteran ag-pilot who had flown every 3-cornered cotton patch in the county over a period of 40 years, so it isn’t like he didn’t know those wires were there. I can’t see a pilot as cautious as J.T. was making a mistake by forgetting those wires were there.

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