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Aerobatics is the demonstration of flying maneuvers for recreation or entertainment.
Many aerobatic maneuvers involve rotation of the aircraft about its longtitudinal axis (rolling) or the pitch axis (looping). Some complex maneuvers, such as a spin, also require that the aircraft be displaced around a vertical axis, known as yawing. Maneuvers are often combined which demands a higher level of skill from the pilot, but greatly increases the spectacle of an aerobatic flight sequence.
Aerobatics are also practiced as a sport. Some pilots fly solely for recreation, while a smaller number (several hundred world wide) choose to compete in aerobatic competitions. Competitions start at Primary, or Graduate level and proceed in complexity through Sportsman, Intermediate and Advanced, with Unlimited being the top competition level. Unlimited pilots perform much more complex figures and sustain higher g levels (+/-10g's).
In the early days of flying, some pilots used their aircraft as part of a flying circus to entertain. Maneuvers that had no practical purpose were flown for artistic reasons or to draw gasps from onlookers. In due course some of these maneuvers were found to allow aircraft to gain tactical advantage during aerial combat or dogfights between fighter aircraft.
Aerobatic aircraft usually fall into two categories - specialist aerobatic, and aerobatic capable. Specialist designs such as the Pitts Special, the Extra 200 and 300, and the Sukhoi Su-29 aim for ultimate aerobatic performance. This comes at the expense of general purpose use such as touring, or ease of non aerobatic handling such as landing. At a more basic level, aerobatic capable aircraft can be dual purpose - equipped to carrying passengers and luggage, easy to land, as well as being capable of basic aerobatic figures.
Flight formation aerobatics are flown by teams of up to sixteen aircraft, although most teams fly between four and ten aircraft. Some are state funded to reflect pride in the armed forces whilst others are commercially sponsored. Coloured smoke trails may be emitted to emphasise the patterns flown and/or the colours of a national flag. Usually each team will use aircraft similar to one another finished in a special and dramatic colour scheme, thus emphasising their entertainment function. Teams often fly V-formations - they will not fly directly behind another aircraft because of danger from wake vortices or engine exhaust. Aircraft will always fly slightly below the aircraft in front, if they have to follow in line.
Aerobatic maneuvers flown in a jet powered aircraft are limited in scope as they cannot take advantage of the gyroscopic forces that a propeller driven aircraft can exploit. Jet powered aircraft also tend to fly much faster which increases the size of the figures and the length of time which the pilot has to withstand increased g-forces. Jet aerobatic teams often fly in formations which further restricts the maneuvers that can be safely flown.
Aerobatics are taught to military fighter pilots as a means of developing precise flying skills and for tactical use in combat. Aerobatics and formation flying is not limited solely to fixed wing aircraft, helicopters are also used - the British Army, Royal Navy and the Indian Air Force have helicopter display team. The Indian Air Force helicopter display team is known as Sarang or peacock.
All aerobatic maneuvers demand training and practice to avoid accidents. Such accidents are rare but can result in fatalities; safety regulations are such that there has not been an airshow spectator fatality in the USA since the 1950s. Low-level aerobatics are extremely demanding and airshow pilots must demonstrate their ability before being allowed to gradually reduce the height at which they may fly their show.
Aerobatics are most likely to be seen at a public airshows. Famous teams include the Red Arrows (Royal Air Force -- United Kingdom) Roulettes (Royal Australian Air Force), the Frecce Tricolori (Italian Air Force), the Southern Cross (Cruz del Sur -- Argentine Air Force), Turkish Stars (Türk Yıldızları) (Turkey), Brazilian Air Force Demonstration Squadron (Esquadrilha da Fumaça), Thunder Tiger (Republic of China),Black Arrows (South Korea), Blue Angels (United States Navy), Surya Kiran (Indian Air Force) Diables Rouges (Belgian Air Force), Halcones (Chilean Air Force), Midnight Hawks (Finnish Air Force), Patrouille de France (French Air Force), Patrouille Suisse (Swiss Air Force), Red Pelicans, Rothmans, Silver Falcons (South African Air Force), Royal Jordanian Falcons (Royal Jordanian Air Force), the USAF Thunderbirds (United States Air Force), Snowbirds (Canadian Forces), the Patrulla Aguila (Eagle Patrol -- Spanish Air Force), Saudi Hawks (Royal Saudi Air Force), and the Yellowjacks.
- Flight dynamics
- Aresti Catalog