The PPG Bible describes how most pilots do reverse launches—throttle in one hand and A-risers in the other. For light winds, the cross-armed method is recommended and indeed it is probably the most effective. But another method works almost as well with less fuss. It uses the regular reverse inflation method but you hold the A’s longer, even as you turn around. Wayne Mitchler is a master of this but the tip below will help the rest of us.

Which way to turn?

Phil Russman first observed that turn-around direction should be opposite to your throttle. At the 2007 Flying Circus I experimented with the idea and found that it works as advertised.

Realize that it’s always better to do a forward launch when winds are light. There’s less risk of falling backwards and it’s more reliable. But for those wanting a challenge, or not wanting to reset after a wind shift, this can be handy.

Most pilots have their throttle in one hand and the A risers in the other hand. To inflate, you back up until the wing comes overhead then turn and launch. Simple, effective. But which way to plan your turn-around? 

Of course you have to hook up the risers correctly for the chosen turn direction. Most pilots, me included, nearly always turn the same direction on every launch (left in my case) since it’s easier to insure correct hook-up if you do the same every time. But is your chosen direction the best direction? That depends on your throttle. It turns out that it’s better, especially in light wind reverses, to turn opposite to the throttle hand. Left-handed throttlers should turn right and right-hand throttlers should turn left. 

It becomes apparent when you start trying to hold the A’s well into the turn-around. You can keep leading with the A’s even as you move sideways.

Yes, it works doing it the other way but try both and see what I mean. That’s what I did and was pleased with the results. I love learning new things. 

Dramatic Improvement to Light Wind Reverse Success

While getting pictures to illustrate a light wind reverse technique it became apparent that it’s way more difficult to pull up the wing with the motor idling (no clutch). I knew that idling thrust fought your efforts at walking backwards but the difficulty went further. The wing didn’t respond even to the same speed pull.  

This increases risk for getting lines in the prop, especially if you accidentally angle your motor downward, prop blasing the wing. We present this for experienced pilots to use in situations where they find themselves already setup for a reverse when the winds die.

Air has mass. Maybe the thrusting motor, pushing against the limited wind, is causing the problem? After flying, I landed to pick something up. I then tried to inflate again and I couldn’t. The wind had died and I couldn’t get the wing up. But it seemed like there should be enough wind. So here is what I did. 

Get hooked in and completely ready to do your normal reverse. You’re facing the wing just like always. Then, step one step towards the wing and turn around so your motor’s thrust is blowing just above the wing. Don’t disturb the fabric. Throttle up to about a quarter for and sweep the thrust left and right 5 degrees. After 10 seconds, idle down then immediately do your normal reverse.

This evening at McCartney field south of Phoenix, after the wind had died down below 2 mph (wouldn’t read on a Meteos anemometer) I gave it several tests. First the normal way and then with the thrust sweep. The difference was amazing. I invite other pilots to try this out for verification and send us the results.

Phil’s Blackhawk has a left hand throttle so he hooked up to turn right. That will allow him to hold the A risers easily through his turn around. Light wind reverse launches are easier turning like this, opposite the throttle hand.

I’m using the recommended turn direction: left hand throttle, setup for a turn-around to the right. Notice that I can keep holding the A’s with my right hand well into the turn. If I was turning to the left it would have been far more awkward because the risers would have gotten in my arm’s way, requiring me to let go of the A’s much earlier. Photo by Tim Kaiser

Torque and the Turn-Around

I’ve heard one instructor suggest that turn direction should be dictated by the motor’s torque. I’ve not found that to be the case which makes sense for these reasons.

  •   There’s very little torque effect during the turn since you’re idling which means minimal force.
  •   The only significant force at play is gyroscopic which will resist the turn (to a very small degree) in either direction. It will actually make you want to tilt forward or backward as you turn but the effect is insignificant with the motor at idle (even less significant with a clutch). 

Tailwind Launch

Of course this is never a good idea, but someone on the internet said it was impossible. Yet I knew I had done it before due to laziness. I had failed a forward inflation and decided “what the hell, I might as well try.” And it worked. Weeks later I read the keyboard jock’s claim of impossibility and knew I had to show it was, in fact, possible under the right conditions.

It’s not a good idea, mind you, the chances of falling while running backwards like that are high. But then a lot of people would say flying buttfans is not a good idea.

Wayne Mitchler helped me set it up and film it from Jim Jackson’s back yard in FL. We built a smoldering fire that showed an oozing wind that was mostly cross but had probably a half-mph tailwind component.