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What is the largest aircraft that has been flown inverted? For the purpose of the question:

  • Sustained inverted flight is not necessary, therefore barrel rolls and loops count
  • The aircraft must be undamaged after the maneuver
  • The maneuver must be intentional (i.e. China Airliners 006 does not count)
  • Simulator runs do not count. The question is not "can it possibly", but "has anyone tried successfully".

The largest I am aware of is the Boeing 707, but that was more than 50 years ago. Has anyone attempted a similar feat in a larger aircraft?

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    $\begingroup$ I'm sure the AN225 could roll if asked. $\endgroup$ – acpilot Apr 14 '17 at 19:02
  • $\begingroup$ Allegedly, the Concorde was barrel rolled, see this video, but as far as I can tell the 707 (and the Concorde if it were true) were the largest planes to be intentionally inverted, recovered, and flown. It really depends on what you mean by "inverted" though, do you mean more than 90° of bank, or do you mean completely inverted (180° of bank)? $\endgroup$ – Ron Beyer Apr 14 '17 at 19:23
  • $\begingroup$ @RonBeyer 180° of bank. $\endgroup$ – kevin Apr 14 '17 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ Is your question "has been" or "can be"? $\endgroup$ – Pondlife Apr 14 '17 at 23:35
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    $\begingroup$ A FedEx DC-10 was intentionally flown inverted by the flight crew in order to thwart a would-be hijacker. Not only did they fly inverted but they did so with grotesque wounds caused by a speargun and crashaxe. Simply an amazing story. I didn't search for it, but there is an "Aviation Disasters" type show that did an episode on it. I'm sure you can find it online. $\endgroup$ – Frank Apr 15 '17 at 6:31
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Theoretically ANY airplane can be flown inverted, if you know what you are doing with it and make sure it is loaded properly throughout the maneuver. Boeing test pilot Tex Johnson famously rolled the 707 prototype - twice - during a demo flight for airline executives at the SeaFair hydroplane races on Lake Washington in Seattle. He nearly got fired for the stunt but the plane was perfectly fine.

The real issue is load factor: the total load imposed upon the wings divided by the gross weight of the aircraft. Don't exceed theses values and have the aircraft flown within the required speed range and it doesn't care whether it's erect or inverted during the process.

In general though, unless an aircraft is specifically designed for inverted flight with inverted i.e. negative G fuel and oil systems, inverted flight must be maintained with a positive load factor to prevent fuel starvation and damage to the engines.

As a side note to this, DO NOT TRY AEROBATICS IF YOU HAVE NO FORMAL AEROBATIC TRAINING AND/OR ARE ATTEMPTING TO DO SO IN AN AIRPLANE IN WHICH THEY ARE NOT APPROVED. It's true guys like Sean Tucker have done aerobatics in a Cessna Corvalis but those are experienced airshow demonstration pilots with over 20,000 hours of logged flight time and more experience at the edge of the envelope than you can shake a stick at. You do not have this prerequisite experience and most likely will kill yourself attempting these maneuvers.

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    $\begingroup$ "The real issue is load factor" It doesn't have to be really. In the case of a barrel roll (like Tex's) it can be done with 1g $\endgroup$ – user Apr 15 '17 at 0:19
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    $\begingroup$ That's the whole point, $\endgroup$ – Carlo Felicione Apr 15 '17 at 1:43
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    $\begingroup$ ... And then you edited your text. Smooth captain! $\endgroup$ – user Apr 16 '17 at 8:11
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    $\begingroup$ Are all airplanes capable of attaining the attitudes needed for a barrel roll, or are there some airplanes whose control surfaces aren't powerful enough? $\endgroup$ – Tanner Swett Apr 16 '17 at 22:54
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    $\begingroup$ But the question is specifically about the largest aircraft that actually has been flown inverted, not which aircraft could fly inverted. $\endgroup$ – John Wiseman Apr 16 '17 at 23:24

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