aerobatics defined in 1939 yearaerobatics - Aerobatics (Gr. aerobatein, to walk the air);
aerobatics - Word coined during the First Great War to describe the various abnormal evolutions and trick manoeuvres carried out with aircraft in flight. When such flying was first developed in the years preceding the 1914-1918 war it was termed "stunting." Looping the loop, which is the best known aerobatic, was evolved by Pegoud, the famous French pioneer pilot, in 1913. He also introduced upside-down or inverted flying and the roll. In the latter the aircraft executes a complete revolution in the rolling plane.
During the period 1914-1918 many other forms of aerobatics were introduced. Amongst these are the half roll, the half roll on the top of a loop, the spin and the sideslip. In the half roll the machine turns over on to its back, the nose drops and, after the direction of flight has changed by 180 degrees, level flight is resumed at a lower altitude. In the manoeuvre known as the half roll on top of a loop the pilot flies his aircraft to an inverted position as though he were looping and, when upside down, returns to normal flight by turning right way up through rolling. Height is gained in the process and the direction is changed by 180 degrees. The sideslip is a manoeuvre in which the aircraft descends at a forwards and sideways angle, the loss of height usually being very rapid. In the spin the aircraft descends vertically and rolls at the same time, so following a spiral track downwards.
The stall turn and Immelmann turn were other manoeuvres introduced in the first air war. The former consists of a rapid climb followed by a cartwheel movement and a dive towards the direction from which the machine had formerly been flying. The Immelmann turn, named after the German fighter pilot, was basically the same. The falling-leaf was yet another manoeuvre developed by airmen in the First Great War. It consisted of a descent (with the engine switched off or idling) when the up-and-down movement of a leaf fluttering to the ground was simulated by rocking the aircraft from side to side.
Marked progress was made in the art of aerobatic flying in the between-wars period. The bunt was a manoeuvre which became popular. It consists of pushing the aircraft into a vertical dive, frying it on to its back and then bringing the nose upward and over until level flight is resumed. The bunt is, in fact, an inverted loop. This trick and inverted turns, in which the aircraft follows a changing course when upside down and the pilot's head is outside instead of inside the turn, require great skill, nerve, and judgement. Yet another advanced aerobatic is the inverted spin. In this the pilot is on the outside of the spin and, as in the bunt and inverted turn, forces are introduced which tend to hurl the pilot from the cockpit.
Aerobatics are taught in air forces mainly to instil confidence in the pilot and to assist him in acquiring a high standard of accuracy in his flying. Through this advanced training he learns to control his aircraft instinctively and correctly when some unforeseen position arises. There are occasions in air combat and operational flying when an aerobatic manoeuvre may save a critical situation: but experience shows that the chief value of aerobatics is that they aid an airman to gain mastery of his machine. Acrobatics are resorted to by test pilots when new types are being tested for strength and for the efficiency of the controls under varying conditions. See Aeronautics; Flight.
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