Who invented the Immelmann Turn?


Who invented the Immelmann Turn?

aerobatic maneuvers


Who invented the Immelmann Turn – by Twitch

The 1972 book related to this is

Fighter Tactics and Strategy 1914-1970

by Edward H. Sims. Also Bruce Robertson in 1959

Air Aces of the 1914-1918 War

mentioned the maneuver. During WW2 pilots on all sides called it an Immelmann.

Boelcke and Immelmann got the Fokkers in mid 1915. They had sufficient power and aeroframe strength to perform that maneuver and more. There wasn’t much else going on in air combat before the Fokker and the gun interrupter gear it pioneered. All the high-scoring aces arrived on the scene after 1915. There is a thing about creativeness that transcends distance, as it were. Many aviators were just exploring the boundaries of combat maneuvering in all countries. The half loop and roll out was discovered, no doubt, by many hot pilots who had never heard of Immelmann. Was Max Immelmann the 1st? He could very well be, or not. The thing is that he used the maneuver to his advantage in some of his 15 kills before his death in mid 1916. Oswald Boelcke must have used it as well in some of his 40 victories before his death in October 1916. After all he was Immelmann’s wing mate and was well acquainted with his maneuvers in combat.

In the development of “things” the pertinent parties are all moving in the same direction with relatively the same mindset and technology. That’s why we see quite similar technological and design developments from different parts of the world with no previous contact.

The Horton brothers and Jack Northrop didn’t collaborate on all-wing aircraft designs being viable. They developed the design separately. Radar in England and Germany was about equal in development, though England seemed to use it to its best advantage. Who had it in service 1st? It doesn’t really matter.

If Immelmann didn’t “invent” the maneuver he used it as a trademark move enough for it to be named after him. For it to be attributed to him he would have had to have had used it enough for contemporaries to notice the fact. Who was the 1st NBA player to ever slam dunk the ball? Not important, as many of the big guys use the maneuver now. Who 1st called it “slam dunk”? Again, not important. If someone ultimately proves George Hawker 1st used the maneuver in combat 2 days before Immelmann, so what?

Who invented the Immelmann Turn – by Robert E. van Patten

The maneuver Immelmann used was not what is now called an Immelmann turn (a half loop followed by a half roll with complete reversal in direction). That maneuver would be very useful defensively.

Immelmann actually used a dive to attack, usually out of the sun, then a hard pull up followed by a hammerhead stall and re-attack. Used defensively – if you had enough energy – the so-called Immelmann would leave old Max out of airspeed and ideas while you scampered away. The bottom line is that Immelmann was the first to use vertical maneuver in air combat the same way that the yo-yo maneuver is used today against an opponent with superior turn performance.

Who invented the Immelmann Turn – by Twitch

OK I’m confused. At first you were talking about the Immelmann- half loop and roll out and now its hammerheads. By WW2 pilots called the half loop and roll out an Immelmann for sure. This maneuver was not only a defensive thing it allowed planes to change direction quickly if they were bounced from behind or saw enemy aircraft back there they wanted to intercept.

The Eindecker had sufficient power to make the maneuver. I’ve flown in a S2N2 that weighed over than 1,200 more than the Fokker with just a 20 MPH top speed advantage and it is fully aerobatic. We did Immelmanns and hammerheads and all the lot.

If any maneuver “would leave old Max out of airspeed and ideas while you scampered away,” it would be a vertical maneuver like a hammerhead. But instead of scampering away the enemy would blast your butt. Never, never, never does a fighter pilot bleed off speed in a fight. Speed is as important an advantage as is altitude. No fighter pilot would ever want to complete a maneuver in combat that resulted in zero miles per hour!

The first fighters didn’t have the energy inertia luxury that later fighters did and repeated vertical stuff was not possible.

Oswald Boelcke’s Dicta was followed even by F4 ace Randy Cunningham:

  • 1. Try to secure advantages before attacking. If possible, keep the sun behind you.
  • 2. Always carry through an attack when you have started it.
  • 3. Fire only at close range, and only when your opponent is properly in your sights.
  • 4. Always keep your eye on your opponent, and never let yourself be deceived by ruses.
  • 5. In any form of attack, it is essential to assail your opponent from behind.
  • 6. If your opponent dives on you, do not try to evade his onslaught, but fly to meet it.
  • 7. When over the enemy’s lines, never forget your own line of retreat.
  • 8. For the Staffel: Attack on principle in groups of four or six. When the fight breaks up into a series of single combats, take care that several do not go for one opponent.

These are the kind of laws that he and wing mate Immelmann used. Number 6 is tailor-made for the Immelmann! A diving attack followed by a pull up and stall would go against all these rules.

Every ace I’ve every known would make a diving firing pass and CONTINUE to dive until well out of range. None would ever pull up and stall out- none that are alive to tell the tale. It’s lunacy and suicide. Most kills by pilots on all sides since WW 1 have been single firing passes from superior speed and altitude.

Immelmann’s Eindecker E IV was unique in that it mounted 3 instead of 2 machine guns. This was not someone worried about out-turning enemies. He traded some extra maneuverability for firepower and many have done so since. While WW 1 types were maneuverable to the extreme it’s relative and the “dogfight” was not the main type of fight. It’s been portrayed in cinema as the only way WW 1 fighters had combat.
It’s wrong.

Who invented the Immelmann Turn – maneuvers in WWI, by Ronbo

First of all, an Eindekker used wing warping, and pilot testimonies of today related that the modern Immelmann turn was possible. but the plane was very slow to roll at the top, making one wonder why he would use such a maneuver if so slow. several historians, Norman Franks for one, say it was more of a chandelle type of maneuver, not a hammerhead. basically, swooping up after an attack, then coming back down on the target. which, pulling up like a hammerhead, but not quite inverted, then rolling slightly, level out. a chandelle. then he could then dive again or just continue on.

Immelmann’s book as written by his brother is translated as at the top of the maneuver, he does a ‘lateral turn’. hardly a roll, but some argue that it must be so.

Also, Immelmann used the EIV for short period. normally used the EIII. the EIII though short on firepower vs. the IV, was more maneuverable than the IV, due the extra weight of 3 guns. hardly something that if at a top of a modern Immelmann turn, would be able to do such a maneuver quickly without stalling or severely slowing down due to the response of wing warping.

Could also be that he was doing more of a half Cuban, with the roll on the down side when airspeed picked up, but would be too slow for a roll on the horizontal, as mentioned by replica pilots.

Again, as mentioned, they didn’t have the vertical power to execute such maneuvers quickly ,esp. in 1915-16. but later planes were more capable than most realize.

Most maneuvers evolve into refinement as planes get better. my reasons to believe the maneuver he performed not the same are stated above. and i believe those that saw the ‘chandelle’ type maneuver coined it the Immelmann turn as a half loop and roll when they were upright at the top of the maneuver.

Who invented the Immelmann Turn – by Twitch

That could be the case- a Cuban 8 or chandelle seen from below seemed to be a whole different thing that was the actual trademark maneuver Immelmann used to reverse direction when needed quickly.

Aircraft performance is based on a combination of factors. Wing warp of the Eindekkers probably produced a slower roll rate than a crate with nice big ailerons but that doesn’t exclude the maneuver from the plane’s repertoire. Streamlining was null and void in all early designs so that was not a negative factor. Power to weight ratio in any moving vehicle is a determining factor.

The Stearman S2N2= PT-13/17 had 220 HP and weighed about 2600 lbs. That’s 11.8 lbs. per HP. The E III had 100 HP and weighed in at about 1250 lbs. 12.5 lbs per HP. The later E IV had 160 HP and weighed just under 1600 lbs. for a 10 to 1 ratio! The E III was equal to or superior in power to weight ratio of its Bristol, deHavilland and so on counterparts. The Fokker Dr 1 was only 11.8 to 1- same of the WW 2 Stearman which could do all aerobatics without strain.

Whatever perceived maneuver was attributed to Max Immelmann correctly or incorrectly, the half loop and roll out was possible in the aircraft her flew. How fast he rolled out at the apex of his maneuver in not that important as long as it threw off the trailing enemy. All we’re talking about here is pulling up the nose of crate then rolling at whatever rate was possible. Remember this is mid 1915 and every pilot that took to the air had literally no training relative to later times. If you were self taught as most were and you weren’t anticipating the possibility of the maneuver and he would have lost you. While we look back knowing all this stuff now there were enemy combatants then who had never seen a maneuver like it ever before. We’re not talking about guys with 1000 hours in combat aircraft. Nobody had much stick time back then.

Who invented the Immelmann Turn – What Immelmann did in those days, by Ronbo

But, the determining factor is still that a replica pilot did it, but was slow at the top, thus making one wonder if it was feasible to do in combat. A combat pilot needed to make his maneuvers quickly, being able to exchange energy states rapidly to achieve the best angle.

The loops I’ve seen early planes do in film are NOT that big. 1914-15 time frame. Power loading is one thing, drag and real life performance is another. What Immelmann did in those days was not what the classic aerobatic maneuver we see today, but perceived as such.

Who invented the Immelmann Turn – Who attributed the maneuver to Immelmann?, by Twitch

We will never know what the heck was interpreted as “the Immelmann” It’s just too long ago and info too sketchy. The so-called trademark maneuver was probably accomplished in combat albeit lethargic in the roll out. But his foes didn’t have any better performing planes for the most part at that time so it’s all relative. If you could perform a maneuver that no one was expecting and would lose the guy on your tail, wouldn’t you?

The real, though pointless, question is who attributed the maneuver to Immelmann? Did this person see a half loop with a roll out or something else?