Aerobatics, maybe you have heard of it? Maybe you have no idea what it is? Perhaps you only clicked on this because of the cool pictures? To put it simply it is essentially acrobatics...BUT instead of a person it is an aircraft doing all the interesting maneuvers. Considered the most extreme of sports, aerobatics pilots are among the best in the world and spend just as much time in the air as they do on the ground!
In order to understand what aerobatics is, you need to understand the concept of G-Force or G-Loading. Where "G" is the normal force you experience from gravity. When standing or sitting on the surface of the earth you will experience 1G, it is comfortable and you won't even notice it! On a commercial aircraft the G-Force you will experience is between 1G & 1.5G and you hardly even notice it. On some of the most extreme roller coasters you might experience a maximum of about 4G.
Aerobatics is the next step up, for a flight to even be considered aerobatic it needs to at some point pull at least 5G, with some aircraft and stunt planes having the ability to do up to 10G.
There are lots of aerobatic maneuvers that a pilot can fly, we are going to cover some of the basic and most common ones like loops and the figure eight!
Great to watch and a lot of fun to do! Everyone knows what they are and I am sure you can picture one in your mind now. It is when an aircraft goes from straight and level flight into a nose down attitude to gather speed. Shortly after the pilot will pull back on the aircraft controls to start the loop. This is done on a high power setting and the pilot will continue to pull back on the controls to the point that the aircraft is now upside down. From this point in the loop you pull back on the controls a bit more and slowly pull out of the loop.
Perhaps the most spectacular to watch! This maneuver is more or less two loops joined together, making the shape of an "8" in the air. Flying this may be one of the more skillful stunts to perform, mainly because it can be quite hard on the body being exposed to so much force for such a long time!
In Aerobatics a roll is the rotation about the longitudinal axis. This is one of the less difficult maneuvers to perform. It is done by putting one of the winds into a stall. It is a staple at aviation shows and in aerobatics competitions!
The wingover is an amazing maneuver to watch and requires a good amount of aviation experience and aerobatic skills. This is where pilots the the aircraft from straight and level flight and rotates the aircraft 90 degrees along the longitudinal axis. Which means one wing points to the sky and one at the ground. Pilots then rolls between one wing up and one wing down.
In order to perform aerobatics you have to be in an aircraft that can handle all the extra stress and G-Loading that the pilot will put it under while flying. The aircraft needs to be able to withstand at a minimum ±6G and up to ±10G. This means that you cannot do these high G maneuvers in a normal transport category aircraft as you run the risk of the aircraft breaking up during flight.
Here are some common stunt planes and aerobatic aircraft:
Fixed wing -
Rotary Wing -
Aerobatics is pretty much the most extreme sport there is. The only jobs that a pilot can do to use an aerobatic rating is to either teach, compete in competitions or take passengers for extreme thrill rides. If you are interested learning to fly aerobatics the first thing to do would be to learn how to fly an aircraft and then get an aerobatic rating with either a Private Pilot Licence (PPL) or a Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL). From having either a PPL or CPL the rating will only take a few weeks to attain!
Like everything in aviation safety comes first and it is even more important with aerobatics. While there is an amount of inherent risk when you are doing such complex maneuvers at high speed, there are a lot of systems put into place to ensure it is as safe as possible. From the maintenance of the aircraft or stunt plane to the aircraft being maintained to the correct standards that suit the operation. Perhaps most importantly the pilot recency and training. There are a lot of measures put into place to ensure that the flight is safe.
Even though the very nature of the flight is for the pilot to place the aircraft into unusual and at times unstable situations. There should not ever be an instance of the pilot being unable to recover from the unusual position in space. In addition to this there should never be a time in an aerobatic flight or any flight for that matter that the pilot is not in full control of the situation.
The most common thing that the pilot will do while doing an aerobatic flight is to put the aircraft into unusual situations and then recover. So it is very important for a pilot to know how to recover from these. One of the most common situations is where the aircraft has a high nose and low airspeed. Left unchecked it will progress into the aircraft stalling. Simply put, a stall is where the wings of an aircraft are producing more drag than lift. This typically occurs when the aircraft nose is high with low power and low speed. As you can imagine this is not uncommon in a aerobatic flight.
In order to recover from something like this is pretty easy. As most fixed wing aircraft have a high amount of dynamic stability. This is to say that if the pilot removes their hands from the controls it will try to return to a state of equilibrium. So to recover from a stall all a pilot must do is point the nose of the aircraft down while applying rudder to balance the aircraft and apply full power. You only need to hold it like this for a few seconds until the aircraft has enough speed again to maintain level flight.
The things to consider when buying an aerobatic flight is the aircraft itself, the size of it (fuel consumption) and the higher level of aircraft maintenance and pilot training needed to perform it. All this means that prices are normally $300 and above. While you can get budget options for other types of flying activities, this will never be the case for aerobatics because they are very costly for the aircraft operator to do well and with a high level of safety.