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Gerald Neel's large-scale Staudacher model with smoke on at the Masters World Aerobatic Championships.

Around this time, one of the first German competition pilots, Gerhard Fiesler (of later Fiesler Storch fame), was also the first to develop inverted oil and fuel systems, leading to the real conquest of inverted flight; Adolphe Pegoud's "stretched loop" of 1913 notwithstanding.

Doolittle had beaten him to the Outside Loop by a few weeks, but in 1929 Gerhard put his own stamp on the future of aerobatics by inventing the Rolling Circle thereby making life miserable for generations of young aerobats to come, as they struggled to learn it. Gerhard won the first World Championships in 1934, and remained active in aerobatics well into the 1990s.

Gerhard's career, along with those of Jimmy Doolittle, Chuck Yeager, and Bob Hoover, proves that there are, indeed, a few old and bold pilots.

Late in the Roaring Twenties, the first military flight demonstration teams were formed in response to repeated requests from larger air show promoters for military participation, and the modern concept of military formation aerobatics appeared.

In the 193Os. the US Army Air Corps Red Knights were the Thunderbirds or Blue Angels of the day, thrilling crowds of air show spectators with their Curtiss Hawk biplanes and inspiring young aerobatic wannabes in bunches. The idea was to entice these dazzled youngisters into the Army Air Corps or orher mililary flying schools. and it worked brilliantly, providing Ameria with a well-trained head start on the thousands of combat pilots that would be needed all too soon.


WACO Taperwing was the most aerobatic biplane of the Golden Age.

The idea continues to work at air shows all over the world: The US Navy Blue Angels team was founded in 1946. and the USAF Thunderbirds followed a few years later. Today, nearly every country with even a rudimemary air force boasts a flight demonstration team of some sort, and hundreds of shows flown each year-there are even international competilions whcre the demo tcams compete with each other!

The Cluban Eight was invented as an ad lib at the 1936 All American Air Race Meeting in Miami, Florida.

Len Povey was a famous American barnstormcr who was almost as well-known for his quick wit and promotional abilities as he was for his considerable aerobatic skills. In the early '30s the Cuban military brass were looking for someone to advise and train the new Cuban Air Force, and Len quickly talked himself into the job.


The Cap 232 is the latest in a long line of winning aerobatic designs from the French firm of Avions Mudry.

After he hsd been down lhere for a while, it was decided that he should take one of the fledgling air force's new Curtiss Hawk biplanes to the show in Miami to compete for the Freddie Lund Trophy as a conbination publicily and recruiting stunt.

While performing for the trophy, he decided to do a triple Avalanche: three snaps at the top of a loop. At the top of the loop. Len saw that he was carrying way too much entry speed for the snap, so he rode over the top; coming down the back side, he did a half-roll and pulled inro another loop, again half-rolling on the back side before pulling out.

The new maneuver was a minor sensation, and when Povey was asked by the assembled press just exactly what he had done, he offhandedly remarked that it was merely a "Cuban eight."

Bigger, better, faster, and stronger remained the rule of the day right up to World War II, when things aeronautical really got bigger, better, faster, and stronger. Aerobatics were once again a matter of pure survival for a new generation of combat pilots, and the fun was placed on hold.

After WWII, the biggest, most prestigious international aerobatic event in the world was the Lockheed Trophy, held annually in Britain. This event was not much like the rigorous current FAI aerobatic competitions. It was essentially a freestyle program, judged a lot like modern four-minute Free, with artistic impression counting far more than precision.


Reprinted from Model Aviation August 1999
Copyright © 1999, by The Academy of Model Aeronautics
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