What’s the largest airplane ever to complete an aerobatic loop.

A brief on-line search came up empty, apart from the fact that the most planes ever to loop-the-loop in one go was 22 Hawker Hunters back in 1958.

Any ideas anyone ?

Wow, way to stump the band. I thought someone would have an answer by now. My searches turned up goose eggs and the only related thing I know of it Tex Johnston doing a barrel roll in the dash 80. I’m sure some aviation maven will come in with an anwer. In the meantime I’ll throw my WAG out and say it’s something like the Douglas B66/A-3 whale. Not that big in the scheme of things but intentional loops require a power to weight ratio that heavies don’t have. Anyway, welcome to SDMB.

It doesn’t exactly answer your question, but you may be interested in Cecil’s column Is it possible to loop or roll a 747 jet?

It was reading that question in Cecils column that prompted my own here.

I guess you would have to make a distinction between largest as in HEAVIEST and largest as in DIMENIONS.

A fairly lightweight plane with a large span would be the more possible - those high performance gliders have quite a wingspan and loop real easy.

Just thinkin out loud…

Also, tks for the welcome Padeye !

I wanted to edit my previous post (I’m a stickler for correcting my spelling) but dont seem able to - shame.

A powerful fighter plane would certainly do a loop and the bigger ones are pretty heavy.


FWIW, a Boeing test pilot did an aileron roll in a (prototype?) 707 back in the '60s. I think it wasn’t called “707”, but had another designation. I have too much catching up to do to check the boards right now.

Largest airplane to do a loop? Ya got me.

I don’t know the answer to the OP later, but I would like to add to the inquiry:

What is the LEAST powerful aircraft that can complete a loop (besides a glider - I’ve seen that). I’m talking about a powered loop.

I saw a guy loop a 65hp J3 Piper Cub at an airshow last year… 200 feet off the ground. My jaw remained on the floor for several minutes.

Could an ultralight perform a loop? A gyroplane?

From the first response to the OP:

I don’t know the answer to the OP either.

Ultralights, gyroplanes, and helicoptors have all been looped.

And it was proven on camera at Fairchild AFB in 1994 that a B-52 can not do a barrel roll.

You can’t really say “besides a glider”. They don’t come any less powerful than that. I’ve seen a C152 loop with the power off, I’ve also seen footage of an Aerocommander doing a loop with power off (Bob Hoover). Point being, the aircraft doesn’t need power in order to loop provided it is going fast enough at the bottom of the loop.

As it happens, I work at an airbase full of test pilots. If none of them can give me a direct answer, I’m sure they may have ideas on the ‘theoretically’ largest plane they think could achieve a loop.

I shall endeavour to obtain an answer to this by the end of the week - hopefully.

Bob Hoover used to loop a Rockwell Aerocommander, which was a business-class twin engined airplane that could seat maybe 8 people or so.

Not only did he used to loop it, but he used to loop it with both engines shut down.

Not only did he used to loop it with both engines shut down, but he used to do it with a glass of water on the glareshield, and not spill a drop.

Not only did he used to do all that, but after the loop he would glide in for a dead-stick landing, coast up to the announcer’s booth, and stop with such precision that he could touch the nose of the aircraft into the announcer’s hand.

Bob Hoover is a great pilot.

One thing his manover demonstrated, is that a loop is not a particularly stressful manoever. The key to a loop is to dive the aircraft until you have enough excess speed, then smoothly pull back on the column or stick in a nice, constant, 2g pullover. If the airplane has enough energy going in, it will loop and never know it was upside down. You’ll be pulling exactly 1G at the top of the loop.

I’ve done them, and you have no sensation of ‘going over’ at all. From in the cockpit, it looks like the earth drops away, then re-appears at the top of the windscreen. When it drops down so that the horizon is in the middle of the windscreen, you’re done.

Just more speculation on my part, since I don’t know of anything definitive either…

I have looped a C-141 in the simulator…but then again, everyone knows that simulators don’t fly exactly like the airplanes.

I had a maneuver that I liked to do at the end of a simulator session…take off, level off at 300 feet and accelerate to about 310 knots. Pull up, leaving the power in and maintaining about 2 Gs until you’re over the top. Continue pulling until you’re about 10 degrees nose low then chop the power, roll (aileron roll) back and you’ll be facing the runway you just departed: 3 miles away and 1,000 ft below you. Don’t touch the power again and land the beast. It’s actually half of a Cuban-8 done really close to the ground, but the airplane handled it fine.

We had a crew inadvertantly roll a 141 once. They were climbing in the clouds with some pretty good chop. Then they lost both of their ADIs (artificial horizons). The schoolhouse weenies and Lockheed said this could never happen, so at that time the C-141 did not have a standby ADI. As they try to figure out which ADI is lying and which is correct (after all, BOTH coudn’t fail!) they start rolling. They start descending, too, and emerged from the clouds INVERTED. :eek:

They recovered and the airplane had some popped rivets but no other problems. They started fitting standby ADIs on the fleet soon after that!

So place me in the “A very large heavy jet could do a loop and survive, but I don’t know anyone who’s done it” category.

pilot141: Isn’t that maneuver also called an Immelman?

Ethilrist an Immelman is the first half of a loop, and you roll upright at the top, thus reversing your direction and climbing.

In a Cuban 8, you continue pulling through the loop until you are nose down again (20 deg, 45 deg, it varies) then you stabilize at that pitch and roll upright. You have reversed direction but now you are descending as well (setting yourself up for the other half of the “eight”).

What I did was a bastardized maneuver, but since I started descending again before I rolled I always thought of it as half of a Cuban 8. In reality, I just thought it was a cool way to get a takeoff and landing done in the minimum amount of time and demonstrate what the airplane could do. The Cuban 8 description just helps people visualize it!

Bob Hoover’s deadstick aerobatics in the AC Shrike is impressive but it’s far from the biggest plane to loop. Any number of attack bombers are much larger. I got to see Bob do that show at Miramar along with Art Scholl in his trademark Super Chipmunk doing the lomcevac not long before his death filming Top Gun.

Sam, you’re right that a loop may not be that stressful but the problem is that power to weight ratio generally goes down as weight climbs. A more massive airplane probably means a bigger loop radius. Engine power and KE may not be enough to get it over the top before it slows to a stall. Dang, this is going to nag us forever. Excellent first post ChalkPit.

How about an “outside” loop, where the plane is upside-down at the bottom of the trajectory and on the outside as the plane climbs back up? Which planes can do / have done that?

Lots of aerobatic planes can do the outside loop. The issue is less aerodynamics than having an engine that won’t starve for lubricating oil and fuel during negative G. Even assymetical and undercambered wings can lift when inverted with sufficient angle of attack. Also having a harness that holds the pilot in the seat is really, really good.

Jimmy Doolittle is credited with being the first one to perfom an outside loop. In the fictional film world it was Ernst Kessler as flown by the late Art Scholl :smiley:

Lest we stray too far from the OP

I still cant find much to help on-line.

An Su-27 which is obviously fully aerobatic, weighs in at about 30 tons, the Mig-29 being somewhat lighter.

The Mig-25 weights 38 tons and has 22 tons of thrust, not sure of the maths though.

A modest T-38 trainer entering a loop at 500kts, tops out at about 10000 ft, to give an idea of scales involved.