What is Aerobatics?
Aerobatics is the act of flying an aircraft under precise control in unusual altitudes. A British magazine coined the term aerobatics in 1914 and was virtually synonymous with stunt flying – and why not? Rolls, loops, stall turns and tailslides were just a few of the common maneuvers of aerobatics. It has since developed into a more precise and serious practice.
On September 1, 1913, Frenchman Adolphe Pégoud flew his aircraft inverted, or upside down. This was the first time such a feat had been achieved and proved to be an essential maneuver in aerobatic technique. Just over a week later, on September 9, 1913, Russian military pilot Petr Nesterov was the first pilot to a perform a vertical circle in the sky, or “loop the loop.” Lincoln Beachey was the first American to complete the trick on November 24, 1913.
In the beginning of World War I, pilots were initially used for scouting. However, in 1915, a fighter aircraft was developed. The advance in equipment led to military pilots engaging in serious aerial combat. Shortly after, it was realized that aerobatic skills could give these pilots substantial advantages during battle.
Pilots began to enhance these self-taught skills and invented a variety of maneuvers. These tactics were not only impressive, but were also effective for dodging the enemy. However, aerobatic techniques were not necessarily encouraged (and sometimes even prohibited) in military training. In 1916, there was a shift in opinion. Aerobatic techniques were beginning to be acknowledged and there was interest in properly teaching the techniques.
After World War I, aerobatics took another turn. Former military pilots from the United States and Europe took their skills to stunt-flying exhibitions and air shows. Naturally, the shows conjured up the competitive spirit, which led to rules, judges, and a proper competition – a World Cup of Aerobatics. The first and only was held in June of 1934 in Paris.
After many years of aircraft development and honing the skills of the sport, aerobatics became universally organized in 1960. The introduction of the International Aerobatics Commission prompted the first World Championships, which were held in Czechoslovakia. In 1962, the Aerobatic Club of America was founded and held its first official US National Championships in Phoenix, Arizona.
A dictionary of aerobatic flight was published in 1961, which listed 3,000 maneuvers and positions defined at the time. Today, the sum has grown to 15,000. This shows that aerobatics has evolved and grown along with the developments in technology and aircraft, and it’s popularity certainly doesn’t seem to be a thing of the past.