How Aerobatics Works

By: Patrick J. Kiger

Aerobatics Maneuvers

Aerobatics tricks often have exotic names, like the Pugachev's Cobra -- names that are puzzling to all but those who are steeped in the sport. But listed below are some of the more familiar maneuvers. If the descriptions are too hard to visualize, check out the Web site of Sunrise Aviation, an aerobatics school, which provides animated graphics that illustrate most of these maneuvers.

Chandelle: This is a combination of a vertical climb and a turn. It's actually a basic flying fundamental, rather than a true aerobatic move. But you'll see stunt pilots do it as part of more complicated maneuvers [source:].


Dive: This one's just like it sounds. The plane's nose is turned downward, though the plane is not necessarily completely perpendicular to the ground. Diving causes an increase in air speed, which the pilot can use to pull up at the right moment [source:].

Loop: A loop is when an aircraft flies upward and then, at the top of its arc, begins to slow down, so that it turns down and completes the circle. You can do an inward or outward loop [source:].

Roll: A roll is a 360-degree revolution along the plane's longitudinal axis [source:].

Barrel roll: A barrel roll is a combination of a loop and a roll. The flight path is the shape of a corkscrew [source:].

Wingover: A wingover is a left or right 180-degree tight turn at the top of an upward quarter loop [source:].

Hammerhead or stall turn: Contrary to its name, this maneuver doesn't actually involve stalling. The plane soars upward and then abruptly turns 180 degrees and descends [source:].

Cuban eight: The plane does five-eighths of a loop to the 45 degree line, a half-roll, another five-eighths of a loop back to the 45 degree line again, another half roll, and then three-eighths of a loop to level out. If that's too complicated to picture, imagine a Hot Wheels car doing a figure eight on one of those loop-de-loop tracks. The variations include the Half Cuban Eight and the Reverse Half Cuban Eight [source:].

These maneuvers sound pretty dangerous, and we'll cover that topic on the next page.