Teaching myself aerobatics: Don’t try this at home!

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Bucker Jungster I and me

Teaching myself aerobatics: Don’t try this at home!
Disclaimer: this post is for entertainment only. I do not recommend anyone using the concepts or techniques employed here by the author.

Dateline 1992. I was a starving flight instructor flogging my way to a logbook full of flight time in hopes of moving on to the “big iron” some day.

Since my original goal to be a G-pulling fighter pilot was derailed by bad eyesight, I had settled on flying buses to pay the bills and flying aerobatics on weekends.
It was a reasonable goal, but my impatience got the best of me – I wanted to do aerobatics now and I didn’t have access to an acro mount.

So on a shoe-string budget I sourced an old plans-built biplane that was fully aerobatic. You can read about my Bücker Jungster I here.

Now that I had the proper airplane, there was another small wrinkle, it was a single place so there was no place to put an aerobatic instructor.
The smart thing to do at this point would have been to go take a 10 hour aerobatic course up in Oklahoma City or down in Dallas, but I was never accused of being smart.

So it was that I carefully taught myself aerobatics.

Very carefully. Luckily there was a lot of information out there on spins due to some recently spin-related crashes in Pitts Specials. Since my airplane was similar to a Pitts I heeded the warnings and rehearsed the recovery techniques in my sleep (Beggs-Muller method).
I also consumed every instruction manual I could get ahold of. I would go out for short flights and often only work on one maneuver at a time.
Once I felt like I had the hang of a particular figure, I would string my known repertoire together.


The airplane was not set up for sustained inverted flight and being mindful of its age, it was built in 1970 out of wood, I limited the Gs to 5 and didn’t do any gyroscopics beyond single snap rolls.

Things I did that kept me from getting hurt:

  • Slow and methodical pace
  • Relentless study. Often reading the same thing in multiple books just to get extra perspective
  • Very conservative. No risk taking, beyond what I was already doing by teaching myself
  • New maneuvers were not tried unless it was studied, planned, and thoroughly practiced in my mind
  • No acro below 3000′

In the end I never saw the killer flat inverted spin or suffered a catastrophic structural failure.

I did learn that you can stall going straight down at full power, pulling Gs can be exhausting, and I roll better to the left than to the right (the later is still true).


In the end, I would have progressed so much faster and easier if I would have bitten-the-bullet and took a course. Is that why they say, youth is wasted on the young?

DON’T TEACH YOURSELF AEROBATICS, but if you are interested in learning more, here is a list of books that I would recommend:

Fly for Fun with Bill Thomas
Conquest of lines and symmetry
Roll Around a Point: Aerobatics
The Basic Aerobatic Manual (The Flight Manuals Series)
Skydancing: Aerobatic Flight Techniques (ASA Training Manuals)

by Brent

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