Sunday, March 04, 2007

Hot Dog

An online message board has a video of a Citation performing an aileron roll. I won't provide a link to it because I think it's a bonehead maneuver to attempt in a non-aerobatic aircraft. You can search for it pretty easily if you really want to see it, but there isn't much to it. The conditions under which this video was made are not known to me, but the problem with performing unapproved maneuvers is that they often don't work out as the pilot intended.

More than one pilot has asked me out of the blue "Do you think this plane could do an aileron roll?" Or "can we spin this plane?" Since I don't fly aerobatic planes very often and many of the aircraft I fly are not approved for intentional spins, my answer is usually "Not with me on board!" And I'm quick to add that there are plenty of places where a pilot can rent an aerobatic aircraft, hire a competent instructor, and while wearing a parachute they can do all sorts of maneuvers and be in complete compliance with FAA regulations. Most importantly, the level of risk while performing aerobatics under the correct circumstances is reasonably low.

Maybe the very fact that certain maneuvers are forbidden in most aircraft is what makes some pilots want to attempt those very maneuvers. Like a moth to a flame. Here's a case in point:

The airplane was substantially damaged during recovery after the captain attempted an intentional aileron roll maneuver during cruise flight and lost control. The cargo flight was being operated at night under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 135 at the time of the accident. The captain reported the airplane was "functioning normally" prior to the intentional aileron roll maneuver. The captain stated that the "intentional roll maneuver got out of control" while descending through flight level 200. The captain reported that the airplane "over sped" and experienced "excessive G-loads" during the subsequent recovery. The copilot reported that the roll maneuver initiated by the captain resulted in a "nose-down unusual attitude" and a "high speed dive." Inspection of the airplane showed substantial damage to the left wing and elevator assembly.

It's been said that a simple, two-word phrase is the harbinger of bad things in the aviation world and it makes one wonder if the captain in the above incident said "watch this" before starting a maneuver that may have ended his flying career. What could he have been thinking? Maybe he was bored with his job? Maybe he just wanted to show off? Or maybe he wanted to know if it's possible to perform an aileron roll in a Lear? He certainly has his answer now.


Colin Summers said...

Thanks. I often cruise along and wonder if a barrel roll (it's all one-g, right?) would be okay in a DA40. I hadn't read a report like the Lear pilot.

The test pilot at Diamond has spun the DA40 (not spin approved) and says it spins like a DA20 (spin approved), but slower and more stable. Not something I'll be trying, either.

John said...


Single engine aircraft certificated in the normal category under part 23 must demonstrate recovery from a 1 turn or 3-second incipient spin, whichever takes longer. Interestingly, the Cirrus SR20 and SR22 demonstrated spin recovery by deploying the ballistic parachute - ouch! That'll hurt your wallet!

As I'm sure you realize, incipient spin recovery demonstration done during certification doesn't mean that spins are approved for every single-engine aircraft. If you get into a spin that goes beyond these criteria, you may have just turned into a test pilot.

Spins can be unpredictable, even in a familiar aircraft that is approved for spins. I recommend against assuming that spin recovery will always be textbook.

You know what happens when you assume ...

phil said...

other considerations aside, I heard you should pitch up quite a bit before starting an aileron roll so that you don't end up in a steep dive.

Greybeard said...

Did anyone other than me immediately think of Tex Johnson?

Paul said...

Maybe the video you watched was in a early Citabria? I thought that all of the Citabria's were rated for aerobatic flight, but I may be mistaken. I do know that the most recent model was updated to permit inverted flight, something that wasn't certified in earlier models.

The aerobatic instructor at my local FBO does all his intstructing in a Citabria.

John said...


The procedure for an aileron roll depends on the aircraft you're flying, but that's really beyond the scope of this posting. The point was (is) that attempting these sorts of maneuvers in most aircraft can lead to unintended results - like the loss of your job, or worse.

Greybeard, you're a bad influence! ;-)

Paul, you're confusing the Citbria (a single-engine prop aircraft) with a Citation (a twin-engine business jet). The names sound similiar, but ...

Ron said...

It's maddening to spend years flying legally and training others to do the same, only to have it all destroyed by morons like this.

Aerobatics is my livlihood and my avocation, and I couldn't agree more about the idiocy of attempting aerobatics in an airplane not approved AND SET UP for them. Even test pilots don't try that sort of thing without tremendous preparation.

By "set up", I mean that even if a DA40 was able to perform an aerobatic maneuver, without an appropriate preflight designed to secure objects and people, things will go flying around the cabin. Coins, pens, keys. Objects can get jammed in the stick boot, behind rudder pedals, in control cables... or worse.

This isn't just theory. I've experienced a control jam, which I detailed here. I almost got killed. And stories like this abound, yet morons continue to fly aerobatics in planes that were not designed for it.

Without an inverted oil system, the engine may be starved of oil for a short period of time. In a carbureted engine, the powerplant may quit altogether as the fuel leaves the carb.

If you're seen by ATC radar, observers on the ground, or another pilot, you may face suspension or revocation of your certificate, even if the maneuver comes off without a hitch.

If you're Bob Hoover and have been flying aerobatics since before World War II, that's one thing. But I'd bet most of the yahoos who do that stuff have little or no experience with high performance aerobatics, because if they had, the maneuver never would have been attempted in the first place.

Anonymous said...


Dumb question (I'm not a pilot): as a flight instructor, are you required to demonstrate spins? If not, are you required to tell students how to get out of a spin?

John said...


In the US, only flight instructor applicants must undergo spin training and receive a logbook endorsement for that training.

Student pilots are not required to do spin training, though I make it an option for those who wish to do so.

In order to spin, an aircraft first has to stall. Applicants for all certficates must demonstrate stalls and stall recovery. The FAA places a great deal of emphasis on stall/spin awareness and spin recovery procedures, but not the actual demonstration of a spin.

Anonymous said...

John: One quick follow up to your last response. What if your student wants to see a spin but you are instructing on an aircraft that's not certified for spins? Are most trainers certified for spins?

John said...


Many trainer airplane are certificated for intentional spins, but I won't intentionally spin an aircraft in which spins are prohibited.

Though intentional spins are allowed in some airplanes, many of the owners of these aircraft don't want them being used for spins because it is really hard on the gyroscopic flight instruments like heading indicators and attitude indicators. Those instruments are important if you plan to fly that same airplane in the clouds under IFR. And gyro instruments are expensive to repair or replace, too.

The Big Pilot said...

Since I don't fly aerobatic planes very often and many of the aircraft I fly are not approved for intentional spins, my answer is usually "Not with me on board!"

LOL...thanks! A great answer to the boneheads out there.