Make your own free website on

Zlin 326 was one of the first of the modern aerobatic monoplanes.

In the mid-1950s, the pilots of what was then Czechoslovakia introduced a maneuver during the Lockheed Trophy that they called a "Lomcevak." The name is variously translated as "log in the head," "headache," or "look at that drunk trying to walk," depending on which Czech you talk to.

Regardless of the exact translation, the new maneuver blew the assembled aerobatic community away. It was the first gyroscopic maneuver to be done, and arguably, it remains the most spectacular.

Gyroscopic maneuvers are maneuvers that take full or partial advantage of the gyroscopic precession generated by the spinning propeller. The pilot usually applies the controls in such a fashion as to maximize this force, and then basically becomes a spectator until the energy of the tumble dissipates and it is time to recover the aircraft.

The classic Lomcevak is entered from a 45° up line, at cruise speed or below, with full throttle applied. To begin the maneuver, full right rudder is applied and held simultaneously with full left aileron and full down elevator. The response varies considerably from aircraft to aircraft, but the usual result is a graceful end-for-end tumble on all three control axes, finishing with the aircraft in an inverted spin.

The first postwar, modern-format World Championships (and the first to be sanctioned by the FAI) was held in Czechoslovakia in 1960. A lone American participated—Frank Price, who funded himself out of his own pocket.

In 1962, American competition aerobatics got a big boost when the Aerobatic Club of America (later to be superseded by the IAC) organized and held the first official US National Aerobatic Championships, held in Phoenix, Arizona. It was won by the legendary Duane Cole, who had helped to organize the event.

The Stephens A-kro inspired the present generation of Unlimited monoplanes such as Laser 200, Extra 230, and Superstar.

America sent its first team—a three-man crew consisting of Duane Cole, Lindsey Parsons, and Rod Jocelyn to the 1962 World Championships in Budapest, Hungary. Lindsey Parsons placed a very respectable fifth in his outmatched and underpowered Great Lakes biplane, beating a considerable number of hot Zlin and Yak monoplanes. American teams have been a fixture and have been among the top competitors at every World Championships since.

The next major development in formal aerobatics was the introduction of rhe Aresti aerobatic shorthand and scoring system, which was the contribution of a flamboyant Spanish aerobatic aristocrat. Count Jose Louis Aresti.

Reportedly, the Count started out by merely scribbling line diagrams of his sequence and raping them to his instrument panel as reminders he could actually read while pulling six or seven Gs. Known merely as the Sistema Aresti, the notation was first used formally at the FAI World Championships in 1964. Aresti notation evenrually evolved into the FAI Aerobatic Catalog, which is today's undisputed last word on aerobatic figures and families.

Aresli notation was the final key to the worldwide standardization and evaluation of formal aerobatic flight. The AMA Competition Regulations includes examples of Aresti notation by neccesity-the AMA Scale Aerobatics events are based on it.

Informal aerobatic flight, as practiced at air shows and freestyle events, continued (and continues) to resist all attempts at standardization. and even most attempls at description.

As a result. the progression of aerobatics in the postwar era has continued along the same dual track as before the war, with the geometric progression of the rigorous competition approach on the one hand, and the spectacular but less-defined air show approach on the other. The only difference is that the former separation by continent has disappeared. and both forms of aerobatics are now flown and enjoyed all over the world.

Around 1972, American and world aerobaric chanmpion and well-known air show pilot Charlie Hillard invented the Torque Roll, which basically consists of entering what looks like a Tail Slide, and then hanging the aircraft on the prop while initiating a continuous roll to the left. With a right-turning propeller, engine torque keeps thc roll going until the aircraft hegins to slide back, whereupon aileron is immediately reversed (because the direction of flight is now reversed) to keep the left roll going. Recovery is accomplished by closing the throttle and finishing as in the Tail Slide.

Highly modlfied WACO known on the airshow circuit as the Mystery Ship. Note the wing-walker rig projecting fram the top wing.

The Zwilbelturm, or Spiral Tower was invented in 1974 by Swiss and European champion Eric Muller. From a right roll on a vertical up line, a tumble is begun that resembles an inverted ascending spin. The controls are reversed to accomplish a transition to an upright flat spin as the aircraft reaches apogee and starts to descend.

In the mid-1970s, heavier aircraft with more powerful engines (more inertia and more precessive force) lit an explosion in tumbling maneuvers that continues to the present day. The variations are apparently endless; so much so that people have either given up on naming them all, or simply can't remember what it is that they just did because of the brain-scrambling effects of high-G.

With the demise of the Lockheed Trophy and the rise of more formally judged competitions, the primary focus in competition aerobatics shifted back to the European prewar emphasis on flying standardized figures with geometric precision.

This competitive paradigm shift excluded gyroscopic figures such as the Lomcevak, since aircraft (and pilot) response varies so much that establishing precise judging standards for tumbling maneuvers is impossible. (Simply describing some of the figures in Aresti environ is impossible!)

However, the gyroscopic tumbles and Torque Rolls were far too popular with competition pilots and spectators to simply be discarded or relegated to noncompetitive venues. They became the centerpiece of the modern Four-Minute Freestyle event (which is judged by standards similar to those used by the Lockheed Trophy), and remain the cutting edge of aerobatics, where today's pioneers may still discover new forms of aerobatic flight.

If aeromodeling has taken much from full-scale aerobatics, it may now he in the process of giving something back. Many full-scale competition and air show pilots have participated as performers, or judges at the well-known Tournament of Champions in Las Vegas, and most have come away entranced and impressed with the inventiveness displayed by the pilots during lhe Four-Minute Free.

It is safe to assume rhat if any of those spectacular 3-D TOC moves are even possible with a full-scale piloted aircraft, they will be coming soon to an air show near you—down low, at show center, with smoke on!

Reprinted from Model Aviation August 1999
Copyright © 1999, by The Academy of Model Aeronautics
Main Page -|- Page 1 -|- Page 2 -|- Page 3 -|- Page 4

Click here to go to the Feature Articles archives.
Home - | - Comments? Questions? -- Email the Webmaster