Safety Publications/Articles

Lazy Eights

Five Easy Steps

Want an easy way to teach lazy eights? Some say there is no easy way, but the way described here might prove a bit of a shortcut for you. Try it and let me know how it works, and be sure to suggest anything that could make the maneuver easier.

Start with Step One. It is the same Step One we used to teach chandelles ("Chandelles in 60 Minutes," AOPA Flight Training, June 2001). Fly a 360-degree turn with a very shallow bank. Start with 10 degrees. Slowly increase the bank by 10 more degrees. Hold it a bit, then reduce to 10 degrees again. Do it again. Increase to 30 degrees, then back to 20 degrees, and then 10. Don't hurry the changes. The purpose of this exercise is to improve coordination.

Strive for smooth control and altitude proficiency. These maneuvers are getting you ready for the precision you will need for lazy eights. At the same time you will see a noteworthy improvement in straight-and-level flight and general control precision.

Now you're ready for Step Two. Fly a 180-degree turn. During the first 90 degrees, start a shallow bank, reaching no more than 30 degrees of bank. During the second 90 degrees, slowly and smoothly reduce the bank to level flight at the 180-degree point. During the first 90 degrees of this turn, slowly lift the nose to a shallow climb while executing the bank, and during the second 90 degrees gradually lower the nose to level flight just as the nose reaches the 180-degree point.

You have executed one-half of a basic lazy eight, except that, after practicing several times, you will then raise the nose so that the speed drops to approximately five knots above flaps-up stall speed. This is Step Three.

The nose will reach the highest point at the 45-degree point in the turn, which is halfway through the first 90 degrees. Speed will continue to decrease until passing down through the 90-degree point. The bank at that point will be no more than 30 degrees, and speed will be the slowest, approximately five knots above flaps-up stall speed.

As the nose passes down through the 90-degree point, speed will begin to increase. Make an arc below the horizon equal to the arc made above the horizon during the first half of this turn. As the nose starts to pass down through the 90-degree point, speed will start to increase and will continue to increase until reaching level flight with wings level. This completes one side. It takes two of these to complete the figure eight.

Practice each turn until you feel comfortable. Now for Step Four. To complete the maneuver, fly through one side and then, without stopping, continue the eight in the opposite direction.

You have completed the figure eight maneuver, and you are now ready for Step Five. You will need a full understanding of the effect of torque, and that is what Step Five is all about.

Point the airplane on a cardinal heading or line up with a road or other straight line. This isn't necessary, but it is easier to see the effect of torque. In straight-and-level flight, lift the nose straight ahead about 20 degrees. Hold the heading while you lift the nose. Keep the wings level. Notice that, as the speed slows down, the nose begins to drift to the left. Torque is causing this. To hold the nose straight, add enough right rudder to overcome torque and keep the nose from drifting.

Now lower the nose to level flight. As the speed picks up, torque goes away, and the airplane will fly level with no torque correction.

Next, from level flight with cruise power, lower the nose. As the speed picks up, the nose will drift to the right. That is the result of the airplane's built-in correction for torque. Now raise the nose to level flight. As speed increases, torque correction is no longer needed. When you have reached cruising speed, there will be no directional change resulting from torque or torque correction.

Now that you understand what torque or torque correction does to the airplane, let's apply this to the lazy eight.

Line the airplane up along a road. Turns should be made into the wind. If you make turns downwind, you may be blown far off course. First turn to the right. Start the up portion. As the nose rises and speed slows, torque will slow, or even stop, the turn. That is when you apply right rudder to overcome the effect of torque. Use enough right rudder to make the turn continue at the correct rate. As the nose passes down through the 90-degree point and continues on down, speed will pick up. Make sure that the arc below the horizon equals the arc above the horizon.

As the nose rises through wings level and the turn to the left is started, you will need to consider torque again. During the turn to the left, torque will tend to speed up the rate of turn. That is when you apply right rudder pressure - yes, right rudder pressure - to hold the turn from going too fast. In other words, for turns to the right, use right rudder to make the airplane turn at the proper rate; for turns to the left, use right rudder to keep the airplane from turning too fast. Think this through. You cannot execute lazy eights without correcting for torque.

Examiners complain that many applicants actually do wingovers when they think they are doing lazy eights. A wingover is a good, easy aerobatic maneuver, but it isn't a lazy eight.

In lazy eights you fly the airplane throughout. In wingovers, you slip the airplane during the turnaround. For lazy eights, fly the airplane throughout the turns - no slipping - and be sure to allow for torque.

By Ken Medley

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