Be brave and go big on an aerobatics experience! Aerobatics is a highly specialised form of flying that, as the Civil Aviation Authority says: ‘involves flying the aircraft close to the edge of the permitted flight envelope’. Experience G-forces when you join a skilled pilot for some aerobatics. Aerobatics experiences FAQ...
• 20mins aerobatics flight from Stapleford Airfield • Flying in the British-built Slingsby Firefly • Try slow stylish rolls, the Firefly signature move • Firefly has a side by side cockpit configuration
If you're one of the two million or so who has watched in awe, as an expert pilot performs a breathtaking aerobatic flight at one of the 250 or more air shows held in the UK every year and have uttered the words "I'd love to have a go at that!". This IS your chance. Not for the fainthearted, but it is the most thrilling form of flying there is!
Who it's not for
If just the thought of flying upside down makes your stomach churn, an aerobatics experience may not be for you. You will be looping the loop, barrel rolling and more, so it’s an experience that’s definitely reserved for the most adventurous amongst you. Don’t let that put you off trying flying though, we have trial flying lessons in light aircraft where you’ll stay the right way up!
Flying is one of the safest form of transport. All aircraft are maintained and controlled to current CAA legislation and all aircraft are inspected before each flight. All instructors are fully qualified pilots (many are ex RAF and/or current commercial airline pilots), who undertake regular pilot licence re-validation by authorise flight examiners.
What’s all this talk about G forces?
Acceleration is described in units of the force called ‘Gs”. On the ground the gravity we experience is 1 G. Even on a commercial airliner flight, you feel the G force at the moment of acceleration in a straight line to take off. It pushes you back into the seat, so it’s +G. Being pushed forward (for example when you land) is -G.
So will I be experiencing G force on my flight?
Oh yes. Despite the fact that we, as human beings, are adapted to be at 1 G, if you’re mad enough to want to go on an aerobatic experience, you certainly will be experiencing life at + and - Gs, whilst your pilot executes a fine sequence of tumbles, rolls and spins. Don’t worry, you’ll be securely strapped in, so inverted flight will be a doddle!
I love roller coasters, will I like this?
Probably! Aerobatic flying is the ultimate in aerial flying and a totally unique experience. It is so different to being a passenger on your typical airline flight. It is totally immersive and you will be amazed at just what aerial stunts these little sports planes are capable of.
Can any plane do aerobatics?
No. The plane needs to be specially adapted for aerobatics. They need things like header tanks and flop tubes to make sure fuel can get to the engine when in inverted flight. Of course, all the aeroplanes offered on these experiences are indeed built for aerobatics.
What sort of aircraft operate these aerobatics experiences?
We've got aerobatic flights in all sorts of aircraft, including the high-wing monoplane Decathlon and the low-wing Slingsby Firefly, which are both often used as aerobatics trainers. Then there’s the wonderful crowd-pleasing Pitts Special bi-plane and the very rare Xtreme Air XA42. You can even do tricks in a vintage Stampe or Chipmunk, proving there's plenty of life left in those old wonders yet. But the most powerful of aerobatics planes has to be the Extra 300s. You’ll need to hang on to your shoulder straps for a flight in one of these!
Which of all these experiences is the most extreme?
Without doubt the Extra 300. It might look like a fairly sweet and innocent little low-wing monoplane, but once you’re strapped in and airborne, you’ll realise that this machine is the boss. This is the plane for competition aerobatics and air races. When being flown solo this aircraft’s maximum g-force is +10/-10 G and with a passenger onboard it’s +8/-8 G. It has a climb rate of 3300ft per minute, which means it is almost vertical. This agile, fast and manoeuvrable plane can do any aerobatic move you can think of!
Are the pilots on these experiences all specialised?
Oh yes. They undertake specific training to be able to perform aerial stunts and tricks. If you want to fly air displays you need an Unlimited Displays Authorisation and many of the pilots who fly these experiences have this. Some of them are even ex Red Arrows pilots and many are working commercial airline pilots too, so they are pretty experienced at this flying lark.
What sort of aerobatic manoeuvres will we be doing up there?
Once the pilot has checked you’re ready and up for it, you might start with a nice loop the loop. Depending on how you find that, some more inverted flight in the form of a barrel roll might follow. If you’re really keen, you might go for a full aerobatic sequence, where you link manoeuvres just like at an air display show. And if you’re in the Extra, expect gyroscopic moves like the Ruade when you climb at 45degrees, tip to the side and then tumble over the nose!
Where do I sit in the aircraft?
In tandem aircraft like the Firefly, Pitts and Extra you will be in the front seat in front of the pilot. In the aircraft like the Decathlon and the CAP10 you sit side-by-side.
Will I be air sick?
Well, that’s a good question. Your pilot instructor will only perform aerobatics if you are feeling OK and you want to do it. As one of our flight school instructors says: ‘If you prefer to fly straight and level and look at the clouds rather than trying to rip the wings off the plane, that’s fine!’ The pilots will also give you some tips for coping with G forces, such as lifting your feet off the floor of the plane, holding onto the shoulder straps and looking out of the cockpit to the horizon.
What happens is we’re in the middle of the flight and I don’t like it?
No problem. You will be equipped with a headset so you can communicate with your pilot, even if they are sitting behind you. Just say the word and they will return to straight and level flight and head back to land if needs be.
What should I wear for going aerobatic flying?
Wear casual clothes you feel comfortable in. Some aerobatics schools provide flying suits for these experiences.
Are there any restrictions?
Restrictions will vary from one aircraft to another, but in general there’s a maximum height of between 6ft 1” and 6ft 4”, with maximum weight between 15 and 17 stone. Please make sure you check each individual aerobatics experience page to see the restrictions for each type of plane/flight.
Can friends and family come and watch?
Friends and family are more than welcome to spectate and witness your first foray into the wild world of aerobatic flying! Many of our locations offer a club house or even an outside terrace area where guests can watch start up, taxi and take off, before gazing in total admiration at the aerial stunts being performed!
Do I get to have a go at the controls of the plane during my aerobatics experience?
In many cases yes. It is subject to conditions on the day and your instructor being in agreement, but in general, once you’ve reached straight and level flight, you might well be allowed to fly the aircraft yourself and even try a few moves maybe.
Where can I go on an aerobatics experience near me?
Aerobatic flying is quite a specialised activity, so experiences are available at selected flying centres around the country. To date, we have aerobatics flights at locations such as: