Aerobatic Flight


  • Aerobatic flight means an intentional maneuver involving an abrupt change in an aircraft's attitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal acceleration, not necessary for normal flight
  • The overhead maneuver is not considered an aerobatic maneuver
  • Aerobatics enhance confidence and understanding of practical aerodynamics and a sense of feel
    • Maintaining control will be due to an innate "sense of feel" which is developed through practical experience
    • Maneuvers are written to be mechanical on paper but are actually much more fluid
If pilots were acrobats we'd wear tights, instead of flight suits. Its AERObatic

Aerobatic Flight:

  • Pilots should be aware of the physiological stresses associated with accelerative forces during maneuvers
  • Rapid pull-up maneuvers result in the blood and body organ displacement toward the lower part of the body away from the head
    • Since the brain requires continuous blood circulation for an adequate oxygen supply, there is a physiologic limit to the time the pilot can tolerate higher forces before losing consciousness
    • The pilot will experience "narrowing" of visual fields, "gray-out," "black-out," and unconsciousness
    • In steep turns, the centrifugal forces tend to push the pilot into the seat, resulting in the same physiologic effects and symptoms
  • Forces experienced with rapid pushover maneuvers result in the blood and body organs being displaced toward the head causing discomfort, headache, "red-out," and unconsciousness
    • Conversely, the opposite may happen causing blood lost to the brain causing "gray" or "black-outs"
  • The pilot should consult an Aviation Medical Examiner prior to aerobatic training and be aware that poor physical condition can reduce tolerance to accelerative forces
    • Physiologically, humans progressively adapt to imposed strains and stress, and with practice, any maneuver will have decreasing effect
    • Tolerance to G-forces is dependent on human physiology and the individual pilot
    • These factors include the skeletal anatomy, the cardiovascular architecture, the nervous system, the quality of the blood, the general physical state, and experience and recency of exposure

Coping with G-Forces:

Stall/Aerobatic Checklist:

  • Before beginning aerobatic flight, a basic checklist to prepare the cockpit and pilot should be performed
    • Cockpit: Clear of lose objects
    • Seat Belts: Locked and tight
    • Autoignition/Fuel Pump: On
    • Engine Instruments: Checked
    • Report: Stall/aerobatic checklist complete

Additional Considerations:

  • Ensure pockets are zipped and the map-case is secured to prevent loose items from going airborne

Aeromedical Considerations:

  • Aerobatics introduce forces on the body that pilots must contend with
  • Learn more with AOPA's Avoiding G-LOC video

Section lines, or ground reference points:

  • Geographical reference points and lines, easily identified from the air
  • Used as reference when executing maneuvers to identify checkpoints

Aerobatic Flight Limitations:

  • Per FAR 91.303, no person may operate an aircraft in aerobatic flight:
    • Over congested area of a city, town, or settlement
    • Over an open air assembly of persons
    • Within the lateral boundaries of Class B, C, D, and E airspace designated for an airport
    • Within 4 nm of the center line of any federal airway
    • Below an altitude of 1,500' above the surface; or
    • When flight visibility is less than 3 SM
  • Additionally, requirements exit for certification and wear of parachutes during aerobatic flight
    • Details may be found here
F-18 U. S. Navy Blue Angels Demonstration Team
Amazon, U.S. Navy Blue Angels Demonstration Team
F-18 U. S. Navy Blue Angels Demonstration Team
Amazon, U.S. Navy Blue Angels Demonstration Team


  • Many prospective aerobatic trainees enthusiastically enter aerobatic instruction but find their first experiences with G forces to be unanticipated and very uncomfortable
  • To minimize or avoid potential adverse effects, the aerobatic instructor and trainee must have a basic understanding of the physiology of G force adaptation
  • Even a brief loss of consciousness in a maneuver can lead to improper control movement causing structural failure of the aircraft or collision with another object or terrain
  • Be mindful of accidental emergency locator transmitter activation
  • Avoid rolling pulls whereby you roll and pull together
    • This is inefficient and can bend the aircraft
    • Instead, do one, then the other
  • Be mindful of the nose (acceleration)
    • Aircraft will accelerate quickly when the nose cuts down through the horizon, and often, aerobatic-specific aircraft exacerbate that condition due to their aerodynamics and power-to-weight ratio design
    • "Think nose-down, power-down"
  • Consider practicing maneuvers on a flight simulator to introduce yourself to maneuvers or knock off rust
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