# 7 Inverted flight UNDERSTANDING IT

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1 7 Inverted flight NVERTED FLIGHT IS OPERATING THE AIRCRAFT UPSIDE DOWN FOR A Isustained period of time. It is a negative-g maneuver, and can therefore be performed only in aircraft equipped with inverted fuel and oil systems. In terms of our definition, the inverted portions of such maneuvers as rolls and loops do not constitute true inverted flight. While in inverted flight, the student is expected to be able to fly straight and level, climb and descend, and perform turns. It is an essential aerobatic skill, to be acquired by all aspiring aerobatic pilots. While aerobatic sequences consisting entirely of positive G maneuvers can be flown in aerobatic aircraft that are not equipped with inverted systems, a botched positive-g maneuver in any aircraft might result in negative-g inverted flight, a compelling reason for all aerobatic pilots to learn to fly inverted. Inverted flight is an important building block of competition aerobatic sequences. Typical inverted cruise speeds Aerobatic trainer: 125 mph Intermediate aircraft: 145 mph Unlimited monoplane: 170 mph UNDERSTANDING IT The most obvious question regarding inverted flight is how a wing, especially one that is asymmetric, is able to generate lift in the inverted position. A very basic review of how a wing generates lift is in order. First, consider the airflow over an asymmetric wing. The greater curvature of the wing's top surface provides a longer distance for the air particles to travel in the same time that particles travel along the wing's under- 69

2 INVERTED FLIGHT side. In upright straight-and-level flight, the air particles flowing over the top surface speed up in comparison to the particles flowing along the underside of the wing. As per Bernoulli's principle, the faster airflow results in lower pressure along the top surface in comparison to the bottom surface, and the wing is suspended in the airflow by the combined effect of the two pressure zones. Now we have to once again talk of angle of attack. If we increase the asymmetric wing's angle of attack, we displace on the leading edge of the wing the point where the airflow separates to traverse the wing's upper and lower surfaces. By increasing the angle of attack, we have further increased the length of the top surface and decreased the length of the bottom surface along which the air particles have to travel. The airflow along the upper surface speeds up further relative to the airflow along the lower surface, and the result is increased lift. So, what about a symmetric wing, the wing found on most high-performance aerobatic aircraft? If the upper and lower surface curvatures are the same, the pressure zones on the two sides should be equal and the wing should never be capable of ascending. Yet it is, and the answer is angle of attack. A 2-3 angle of attack will sufficiently move the point on the leading edge where the airflow separates to create a difference between the length of the wing top and bottom surface over which the air flows, resulting in an increase in lift. Now consider the asymmetric wing inverted. The task is to increase the distance over which the air particles have to flow along the top surface to exceed the distance traveled by the airflow along the bottom surface. This is done by increasing the angle of attack. The increase has to be substantial, which is why aircraft with asymmetric wing profiles can maintain inverted level flight only in a noticeably nose-high attitude. The principle is the same for the symmetric wing, but the angle of attack required is small and equivalent to that required right side up. The symmetric wing performs equally well either side up, which is the reason why it is found on high-performance aerobatic aircraft. FLYING IT Inverted flight can be entered in several ways. You can roll inverted, you can pull up inverted through the first half of an inside loop, or you can push over into inverted flight through the first half of an outside loop. Rolling inverted is the easiest and least stressful way to enter inverted flight, so it is taught here. Once you feel comfortable flying upside down and have learned to do inside loops, you will routinely pull up through a half loop into inverted flight. Pushing over into inverted flight through an outside half loop is an advanced maneuver and should be left to the advanced stage of your aerobatic training. Another important aspect of inverted flight is recovering from it. You can roll upright, which is the preferred recovery technique, or you can pull through the second half of the loop, which is the instinctive reaction but is emphatically not recommended as a standard recovery technique because of the rapid airspeed buildup, high acceleration load (Gs), and loss of altitude. 70

5 A word about inverted systems flight you need to apply aft stick (elevator) to get the nose down. So to recover from a stall, make sure the rudders are neutral and apply aft stick. The forward stick forces are so high that you will encounter plenty of prestall buffet in most training aircraft before experiencing an inadvertent inverted stall. An inadvertent inverted spin is possible from inverted straight and level flight with the gross misapplication of controls (extreme uncoordination), but the chances of it developing are quite remote in most low-performance training aircraft. In a badly mishandled turn, the chances are slightly higher. The standard recovery technique from the inadvertent inverted spin is: Power off. Rudder opposite the yaw to stop the rotation. Aft stick to unstall the wing. When the spin stops, neutralize the controls and pull out of the dive. The Beggs/Miiller emergency recovery technique also works in most aircraft: Power off. Let go of the stick. Rudder opposite the yaw (step on the rudder that offers the greater resistance). When the spin stops, neutralize the controls and pull out of the dive. It is imperative that you get comprehensive inverted stall/spin instruction from a qualified aerobatic instructor prior to solo inverted flight. Things can go very wrong if for whatever reason you decide to abandon inverted flight and decide to pull through in a split-s instead of rolling upright. The altitude loss and airspeed gain in a split-s can be tremendous and a hazard to safety. Always roll upright to recover from inverted flight. A WORD ABOUT INVERTED SYSTEMS An inverted system is essential for prolonged negative-g flight, such as inverted flight, and an aircraft has to be specifically approved for inverted flight to be deliberately flown inverted, so a few words about inverted systems are worthwhile. The direction of the flow of fluids circulating in an aircraft is affected by the force of gravity. In inverted flight, the fluids will flow in a different direction relative to the aircraft than in upright flight. Unless the systems using these fluids are specifically designed to take this difference into account in inverted flight, the flow of fluids will be interrupted and the systems will cease to function. Fuel and oil are a problem in inverted flight on every aircraft, and on some sophisticated (mostly military aircraft) hydraulic fluid can also cause a problem. If there is no inverted system, when an aircraft is turned upside down, fuel and oil will cease to flow through the appropriate parts of the engine, which will stop and could even be damaged. 73

6 INVERTED FLIGHT Fluid flow can be maintained many ways when flying inverted, but inverted systems generally fall into two broad categories: time-limited systems and continuous systems. Time-limited systems are based upon an inverted auxiliary tank. Fluid collects in the inverted tank during upright flight, and the tank is so positioned that when the aircraft is turned upside down it is able to supply fluid to the appropriate systems until it runs dry. These systems are simple and usually provide fluid for not much more than 5-10 minutes at a time, which is more than it might seem considering that the average length of an unlimited competition sequence is only about 8 minutes. The more complex inverted systems innovatively combine a network of pumps and plumbing to provide a continuous supply of fluid equal to the supply available right side up. You should be intimately familiar with your aircraft's inverted capabilities and system. Consult your aircraft manual. Lift Symmetric wing AOA Relative wind Lift Asymmetric wing AOA Relative wind Fig Inverted straight and level flight. The asymmetric wing is less efficient, requiring a higher angle of attack (AOA) to maintain straight and level. 74

7 A word about inverted systems Fig Upright straight and level cockpit view from an aircraft with a symmetric wing. Fig Upright straight and level cockpit view from an aircraft with an asymmetric wing. 75

8 INVERTED FLIGHT Fig Inverted straight and level cockpit view from an aircraft with a symmetric wing. Note nose-high atitilude. Fig Inverted straight and level cockpit view from an aircraft with an asymmetric wing. 76

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