A guaranteed crowd-pleasing maneuver at any event is a low-level torque roll. Even though this maneuver has been done time and time again, it still seems to defy logical aerobatics; I mean, how can a plane do that? But planes can, if they are set up correctly, and anyone can learn to do the maneuver-with a little practice. The best part is that our park flyers are, for several reasons, the perfect planes for learning the torque roll. They are small, inexpensive and easily repaired (you will be doing some repair work!). You can also fly these planes close to you (an important element; more on this later), and they have a great power-to-weight ratio. Let’s see what we need to do to learn this impressive maneuver.
PREPARING TO TORQUE-ROLL
You will want a light plane that has a good power setup-enough to pull out of a hover-and a motor that can swing a large-diameter, low-pitch prop. The plane will have to have good-size control surfaces that can accommodate 40 or more degrees of throw. To make the torque roll a little easier to control, use a radio with dual rates so you can switch the high rates on during the torque roll and off for normal flight. Exponential programming will help make the high rates a little easier to control. Balancing your plane slightly tail-heavy will help keep it in the torque roll. When the plane has been properly set up, you’ll be ready to go.
LET’S DO THIS THING!
The key to doing a good torque roll is to make a good entry into the maneuver. It doesn’t matter whether you enter the torque roll upwind or down, but it will be difficult to learn the maneuver when the winds are stronger than 5mph. Start your first few torque rolls with the plane as close to you as possible while still leaving enough room for your safety zone. The plane needs to be close so that if it has any small heading drifts, you will be able to see and correct them (see Figure 1). Always start any hovering maneuver so that the plane will drift away from you. Once in a torque roll, the plane will drift in whichever direction the wind is blowing, and if that pushes the plane toward you, it could shake you up enough to cause a crash.
Start by making a fairly low pass, and right before the plane passes you, reduce the power to about half. When the plane passes in front of you, pull up into a 1/4 loop, making sure that the plane is tracking straight up. If you haven’t done so already, switch to high rates. It is important to get the plane perfectly vertical so that it looks as if the nose is pitching slightly backwards toward the canopy. The plane will begin to slow down fairly quickly. As it comes to a complete stop, slowly advance the throttle so that the plane will hold its position and not gain any more altitude. Once the plane has equalized, see what happens. Some planes will go right into a torque roll, while others will take a few seconds before they start; some will not go into a torque roll without a little help. To help a plane torque-roll, rock the throttle stick up and down just slightly-maybe one or two clicks. The plane should start rolling, and now, the real fun begins!
Once the plane starts to rotate, you have to stay on top of your correction with the elevator and rudder. An advantage of using a small plane is that you can fly it close and see which corrections are needed early. Quick jabs at the control sticks to keep the nose centered will be required. Try to make these quick jabs at the same moment as you rock the throttle stick up to maximize the airflow over the control surfaces. Most planes will require up-elevator and right-rudder corrections to keep it pointing straight up. Remember this as the plane rotates around and the underside is facing you because then, the controls will be backward. This will take some time to perfect and is probably the hardest part of learning the torque roll (see Figures 2 & 3).
HOW DO I GET OUT OF THIS?
All good things must come to an end, and the same is true even of a perfect torque roll: it will eventually stop. When you notice that the plane is beginning to fall out of the torque roll and you can’t save it, advance the throttle to full, and fly out of it. Be sure to have your rudder and elevator at neutral before you advance the throttle to full.
After you’ve mastered the torque roll, try exiting with a vertical roll, or kick the plane over into a knife-edge or an inverted fly-out. Use these tips to conquer the torque roll, and before you know it, you will be able to perform this maneuver right on the deck. Be forewarned, though: once you’ve learned the torque roll, you’ll want to do it all the time.