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The Benefits of Aerobatics Training Programs For Pilots Of All Types

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Aerobatics training is a great way to improve confidence in your control of an aircraft and flying abilities while having a lot of fun. Aerobatic training is widely available and it provides fresh challenges for those in possession of private pilot license. It’s a form of flying that comes with a high score in the fun factor!

While most qualified pilots will never receive any aerobatic instruction, those that do improve their flying skills. There is a strong case to argue that this type of advanced training undertaken by private pilots improves pilot safety as it teaches them all about upset prevention and recovery.

Post PPL Training

Many recently certified pilots look for fresh challenges once they’ve gained a private pilot rating. New goals keep them focused on overall improvement

For some this might involve tailwheel training, a tailwheel endorsement, and some mountain flying, if they’re interested in bush flying.

Some may opt for upset recovery training and a spin endorsement. Others still will go for an instrument rating or a multi engine rating.

Basic aerobatics will teach you about energy management while improving your stick and rudder skills. For most pilots, some additional training in unusual attitudes and unusual attitude recovery can only improve the way a student flies.

Basic Aerobatic Training

Most people learn some basic aerobatics by first undertaking some discovery flights. These intro flights are designed to see if you like being in an airplane that’s being hurled around the sky but in a controlled manner.

Once you begin it’s important to proceed at your own pace. Your instructor will be able to determine what that speed should be.

An introductory flight will last probably no more than 30 minutes. They can go on for longer but that should be enough for you to get a taste of what’s ahead in basic aerobatics and it’ll get you thinking about the potential for advanced aerobatics.

As with all flight training, practical lessons will be suplemented with the ground instruction you need to appreciate what the aircraft is doing and why the maneuvers are possible.

Alan Cassidy

Better Aerobatics

Better Aerobatics
Neil Williams



Advanced Aerobatics

Advanced training leads to the ability to fly more demanding maneuvers, stiffer competitions, and eventually perhaps formation aerobatics in which sequences are flown with one or more other aircraft.

My Video About Ultimate High

A promo video I made in July 2017 for Ultimate High

My First Aerobatic Flights

My first taste of aerobatics was in a Pitts Special S-2A. I celebrated my first solo with two flights in this small, open-cockpit biplane. Nearly 40 years later I can still remember the first time I experienced the sensation of my body weight transferring to the sholder straps. They felt so tight on the ground but I was glad of them when the flight instructor inverted the aircraft!

It was to be another two decades before I was to experience aerobatics again. That was with the Ultimate High flight school, now based at Goodwood Airfield in West Sussex, England.

They have been providing training of high quality for twenty years or more. As well as aerobatic flight experiences like they’re famous ‘Top Gun’ flights, they teach basic aerobatics and competition aerobatics. They also provide sping training and all manner of upset recovery training.

I have enjoyed the experience of cuban eights, aileron rolls, slow rolls, and many other examples, as well as some spin training. For some reason I couldn’t quite grasp how to perform a good barrel roll but I managed most of the other maneuvers fairly well.

These flights were in an Extra 300 and Bulldog. I have also had the pleasure of looping a Harvard, in complete contrast to the speed of the Extra 300.

The Ultimate High UPRT Academy offers several types of experiences and flight training. I recommend you contact them to find out more. There’s the Flight with a Fighter Pilot, the Top Gun experience, and general aeros in an Extra 300.

Aerobatics Training in the UK

There are many places around the UK where you can enjoy a single flight experience yourself or undertake some training. Treat yourself or buy a gift certificate for a lucky recipient.

Basic Aerobatics Maneuvers

Here’s a list of the maneuvers you could be taught, or which you can request to see demonstrated during your aerobatic introductory flight.

  • Aileron Rolls
  • Barrel Rolls
  • Slow Rolls
  • Avalanche
  • Chandelle
  • Competition Turn
  • Cuban-Eight
  • Eight-Sided Loop
  • English Bunt
  • Half Cuban Eight
  • Hammerhead
  • Humpty-Bump
  • Immelman
  • Inside-Outside Eight
  • Inverted Flight
  • Lazy-Eight
  • Reverse Cuban Eight
  • Reverse Half Cuban Eight
  • Rolling Turn
  • Spin
  • Split-S
  • Square Loop
  • Tailslide
  • Wing Over

The four aerobatic maneuvers judged in accordance with the rules of the International Aerobatic Club (IAC) are:

  • The “Loop” — a complete loop executed without missing the vertical.
  • The “Hammerhead Turn”— a vertical turn executed at the top of a loop.
  • The “Gainer” — a half-loop followed by a half-roll, with the correct position for vertical entry from the top of the maneuver.
  • A spin to inverted flight (the “invert”) executed without hitting the horizontal or going out of control.

Spin Training and Spin Avoidance

Private pilot training includes exercises that teach the student pilot about the stall and how it can induce a spin, but spin training itself is not mandatory for the license. The spin training for the PPL is short and it’s designed as a form of prevention and recovery training for spin avoidance.

In other words, to recognise the warning signs and prevent the aircraft from entering a spin during slow flight.

In upset training the pilot takes this a stage further and enters a spin and learns how to recover the aircaft back to level flight. The flight instructor might put the aircraft into unusual attitudes and then ask you to gain control in the quickest and safest way possible.

Aerobatic Flight Schools

When considering flight training in aerobatics, it is important to choose flight schools that provide aerobatic instruction under the tuition of a certified flight instructor. Don’t be tempted to try anything for yourself. 

Begin with an introductory flight during which you’ll be able to experience some of the more gentle moves and unusual attitudes. After your first flight experience, you might want to book a series of lesson designed to teach the basic aerobatic maneuvers. You don’t need to fly in a high powered aircraft to peform aerobatics. You could also do some of the maneuvers in a vintage biplane, like a Tiger Moth.

Of course, you don’t have to set your sights on a private pilot rating in aerobatics. You can just enjoy the experience in a series of fun flights as a supplement to your conventional flying.

Competition Aerobatics

Some people learn to fly aerobatics simply for their own enjoyment but others might choose to take it one stage further and enter some amateur competions.

Competition aerobatics, like all disciplines during which you have to perform in front of a judging panel, requires precision. It involves demonstrating not only that you can fly the maneuvers but do so skillfully and with each blending into the next in an efficient manner.

Aircraft Types

There is a wide variety of fixed wing aerobatic aircraft. Here are just a few:

  • Pitts Special
  • Extra 300
  • Zivko Edge 540
  • Sukhoi Su-26
  • Christen Eagle
  • Super Decathlon
  • Slingsby Firefly
  • Bristol Bulldog

Pitts S-2C

The Pitts S-2C is an aerobatic biplane originally manufactured by the Pitts Special Company. It was first built in 1966, but production continued until 1985 to produce updated variants that are still being used for aerobatics shows even today.

The S-2C is a two-seat aircraft with a steel tube frame. It was designed as a sports plane and its performance and durability have made it popular among aerobatic teams around the world who used them to both train airshow pilots and peform in them.

The S-2C is powered by a Lycoming AEIO-540, 260 HP engine that allows it to climb at 2,900 feet per minute and reach a maximum level speed of 169 kt.

The Pitts S-2C is a highly maneuverable aircraft that has been an iconic part of the world of aerobatic flying for decades, thanks to its durability and easy maneuverability.

Super Decathlon

The Super Decathlon is an aerobatic aircraft that was designed for flight training and personal use. It is made from a tubular steel frame, which is covered in fabric. The Super Decathlon is powered by a Lycoming O-540 six-cylinder engine, which produces 260 horsepower. It has a top speed of 207 mph and a range of 575 miles.

The first Super Decathlon was manufactured in 1985. Cessna produced 1,100 of these aircraft, and stopped producing them in 2001. Today there are still 350 Super Decathlons flying worldwide.

Zivko Edge 540

The Zivko Edge 540 has been marveled at for its agility and precision in the sky. This plane is one of many aircraft that are specifically designed to allow pilots to be more comfortable while flying, through means such as adjustable seats and footrests. The Zivko Edge 540 was created by an individual who worked with airplane aerodynamics in a wind tunnel for a major aircraft corporation before going out on their own to design and produce planes.

The Zivko Edge 540 is a single-seat airplane that was designed with the idea of being as aerodynamically sound as possible, without compromising the comfort or safety of the pilot. The footrests and seats are adjustable so that pilots can stand up and stretch while flying, without bumping their heads on cockpit components. This feature allows pilots to feel more comfortable throughout flights that last longer than an hour or two.

The Zivko Edge 540 can be recognized by its distinctive red propeller spinner and a large wingspan of 20 feet, the same length as the fuselage itself. The wingspan is a distinctive feature of this plane because it allows for increased lift while flying.

The Zivko Edge 540 was designed to meet the demands of pilots who fly in competitions, such as air races. The design incorporates aerodynamic features that allow pilots to fly at a faster speed and maneuver with ease. The Zivko Edge 540 is a plane that has been the envy of many, due to its sleek design and aerodynamic features.

The North American T-6 Harvard

The North American T-6 Harvard was a single engine advanced trainer aircraft used by the United States Army Air Forces and the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II and the Korean War.

The T-6 is known for being easy to fly and forgiving, which made it a popular trainer aircraft. It can perform slow flight, four point rolls, loops, snap rolls,and a hammerhead turn.

It had four light machine guns, one mounted inside each wing and two on the side of the cockpit. The aircraft could carry around 1,200 pounds of bombs depending on size and type of bomb carried.

During WorldWar II and the Korean War, North American T-6s saw a lot of action.

There are several examples still flying in the UK. There is one at the Goodwood Aero Club at Goodwood Airfield in West Sussex. This particular aircraft was once owned by the pop star, Gary Numan.

The Cessna 150 Aerobat

The Cessna 150 Aerobat is a two-seat, single-engine, high-wing monoplane. It was designed for flight training, as well as personal use.

The aircraft is made from a tubular steel frame, which is covered in fabric. The 150 Aerobat is powered by a Lycoming O-320 four-cylinder engine, which produces 135 horsepower. It has a top speed of 133 mph and a range of 575 miles.

The first 150 Aerobat was manufactured in 1967. Cessna produced 2,300 of these aircraft, and stopped producing them in 1985. Today there are still 1,300 150 Aerobats flying worldwide.

The Aresti Symbols

The Aresti symbols are a set of graphical representations of aerobatic maneuvers. They were invented by Spanish pilot and legislator Jorge Luis Aresti Aguirre in the 1940s, and they are used by pilots all over the world to plan and execute complex aerobatic routines.

Each symbol represents a different maneuver, and they can be strung together to create entire routines. The symbols are arranged in a specific order, so that pilots can easily see what maneuvers need to be performed and in what order.

Some of the more common maneuvers represented by the Aresti symbols include loops, rolls, hammerheads, Immelmans, Cuban eights, and inverted flight. By using these symbols, pilots can fly complicated routines with precision and accuracy.

Famous Aerobatic Pilots

Patty Wagstaff

Patty was born in 1952 and grew up on a farm with her family in Minnesota. She dreamed of being a jockey, but eventually realized that she was too tall to be one! She began taking flying lessons at the age of 16 and only a year later did her first air show.

One of the world’s most well known aerobatic pilots is Patty Wagstaff, who has won countless awards and medals for her flying. She frequently performs at air shows around the US and works as a consultant for many different companies and organizations that want to learn more about aviation.

Patty became a professional aerobatic pilot at 18 years old, and very quickly became well-known for her abilities. She flew her way through countless championships and competitions, and was eventually asked to be the official pilot for the United States Aerobatic Team in 1988.

Patty Wagstaff is still an active member of the US aerobatic team and continues to fly at airshows around the US.

Paul Bonhomme

Paul Bonhomme is a famous British aerobatic pilot, who was born on the 26th of January 1970. He is known for flying displays at airshows throughout Europe, and has won many awards for his flight skills.

At the age of 18, he joined the Royal Air Force to train as a fighter pilot but decided it wasn’t for him. He flew the Tornado F3 in the air defense role before being selected to fly special forces missions using Chinook helicopters. After he left, he became a commercial pilot with British Airways.

After years of experience as a commercial pilot for BA, Bonhomme was involved in planning the Red Arrows tour of southern Africa in 2008. He was chosen to fly the lead Hawk in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

He later set up a business with fellow Red Arrows pilots Mike Stephenson and Clive Grace, which organizes airshows for private companies.

In September 2012 Bonhomme won the prestigious British Aerobatic Championship at RAF Brize Norton . His win gave him the right to name the 2013 display sequence at the Royal International Air Tattoo.

Aerobatic Flight Training Requirements

Generally speaking there are two types of people who book aerobatic flight training; pilots or student pilots, or people who have no flying experience and who want to enjoy the thrills even if they never set foot inside a light aircraft again.

Either way, the requirements will vary slightly according to the aircraft type. Lighter aerobatic aircraft may have a weight limit for the student. For example, this might be between 15-16 stone (95-100 kilos). The student/passenger will also need to be in reasonably good health with no underlying health conditions that could be exacerbated by pulling a few extra Gs.

It’s highly likely that the aerobatic flight training school will ask you to sign an insurance indemnity document to absolve them of any culpability should you suffer any short or long term physical effects from your flight. This is standard practice and the onus is on you to ensure that you’re fit enough to fly.

Other than that you don’t actually need to be a pilot of any experience to try some aerobatic flight training. Just keep an open mind and pay attention to the preflight briefing. They will ask you if you have any particular wishes and tailor the experience to suit you.

If you are a private pilot and you do want to learn to fly aerobatics solo, either for your own amusement or perhaps one day in amateur competitions, then of course your trial lesson will be the first of many. You’ll have to approach the aerobatics syllabus just as you would any other additiona rating to your private pilot licence or certificate.

For aerobatic flight training in jet aircraft a g-suit will help protect your body against the effects of excess Gs. You can probably pull about 5 to 6 G without a suit but beyond that it’s likely that your vision will deteriorate and eventually you might pass out. So in fast jets you’ll wear a g-suit to maintain blood pressure to your head.

FAQs about Aerobatic Training

What is aerobatic training?

Aerobatic training is a type of flight training that teaches pilots how to safely perform aerobatic maneuvers. It teaches you about the capabilities of the aircraft and your own abilities as a pilot.

What happens during aerobatic flight training?

Aerobatic flying requires a broader set of pilot skills and exposes the aircraft to greater structural stress than normal flight. Many aerobatic maneuvers involve rotation of the aircraft about its longitudinal (roll) axis or lateral (pitch) axis. Other maneuvers, such as a spin, displace the aircraft about its vertical (yaw) axis. Maneuvers are often combined to form a complete aerobatic sequence for entertainment or competition.

In an aerobatic aircraft, you can push your and the aircraft’s limits to see just what kind of extreme flying is possible. In the training for performing aerobatics, you can work on many types of maneuvers but most of it begins with comparatively simply routines that include loops, cuban eights, and rolls.

At the same time as getting some true airmanship experience under your belt, you will be able to take those techniques and use them in a routine that is safe but amazing to experience. When you come down from your first aerobatic flight the feeling of accomplishment will be beyond compare. It’s a bit like the feeling you had after completing your first solo.

There are many types of maneuvers that you can perform after learning aerobatics. Some examples of these maneuvers include loops, hammerheads, stall turns, Cuban Eights, spins, and more. It may take some time before you can perform all of these maneuvers, but through training, motivation, and the possible addition of an aerobatic flight instructor; you should be able to do it within a few weeks.

The flight time during aerobatics training will vary according to the exercise, aircraft, and how you feel. It’s meant to be fun so if you feel unwell at any time there is no sense in continuing until you feel better. Your instructor will understand this.

Even if you enjoy aerobatics there can be times when lengthy aerobatics training can lead to slight feelings of nausea. At this point it’s best to return to base for a debrief.

Do you need a rating to fly aerobatics?

In general, you do not need a rating to fly aerobatics, but you do need training and practise under supervision until you’re deemed safe to fly maneuvers solo. Some advanced aerobatic maneuvers may require specific ratings or endorsements. If you’re not sure whether a maneuver is safe to perform, consult a certified flight instructor.

What sort of pilots fly aerobatics?

At your chosen flight school you might see a commercial pilot, an airline pilot, or a sport pilot all attending the same aerobatic introductory flight training. All kinds of pilots choose this type of flying.

For an airline pilot it makes a welcome break from the strict disciplines of flying airliners. For a sport pilot it can be a natural progression from other forms of training.

Is aerobatic flight training suitable for me?

While many people think that learning what aerobatics might be a bit unusual, they will most likely change their tune when they watch the maneuvers or try them for themselves. When you can take an aircraft and push it beyond what other people consider possible, then that is wonderful enough in itself.

If you are looking for a way to push yourself and see what kind of extreme conditions you can withstand while enjoying some exceptional flight time, then aerobatic flight training is something that you need to consider. Right from the outset you will be able to perform exciting maneuvers.

So, for those of you that are ready to expand on your pilot licence and move into the next level of flying, becoming an aerobatic pilot is something that will test and stretch your abilities.

What if I feel sick during aerobatic flights?

If you do start to feel unwell during some aerobatic training then simply speak up and tell your flight instructor. There’s no point in continuing if you’re not feeling so good. It’s not that unusual and it doesn’t mean you’re not able to continue with your training program. It simply means you need to take a break.

There’s no shame in this and once you’ve recovered your composure either in the air or back on the ground you can continue when you feel ready.

Does aerobatics make you a better pilot?

Basic aerobatics can improve your flying ability by teaching you how to better control your aircraft. It also helps you stay calm and focused in difficult situations, which can be invaluable when things go wrong in the air. By mastering aerobatics, you will become a better, safer pilot.

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