I have heard of pilots rolling airplanes that aren't approved for it (Cessna 172, Learjets, etc.), and other than the obvious legal issues, are there any mechanical or safety reasons to avoid it?

I do not advocate doing anything (like this) that is not legal, but am looking more for additional reasons that I can use to dissuade people from doing this when they say that it isn't hurting anyone or something along those lines.

  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't it be approved, if it were safe to do so? $\endgroup$
    – Keegan
    Nov 3, 2014 at 3:49
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ @kjmccarx Not necessarily, the aircraft manufacturer may not have wanted to spend the money to certify that with the FAA due to the cost. $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Nov 3, 2014 at 5:55
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ @SpongeBob: Also remember that while barrel roll does not involve any unusual loads and should be doable with almost any aircraft, an average pilot not trained for it may easily loose spatial orientation. A business jet crashed couple of years ago because the pilots (it was ferry flight, so only the pilots were on board) wanted to try a barrel roll and lost spatial orientation. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Jun 4, 2015 at 14:00

3 Answers 3


There are a lot of good reasons not to roll such an airplane.

  1. If the plane has gyroscopic instruments, you might tumble them (cause the spinning gyro to hit the inside of the instrument). This can be expensive.

  2. You might easily over-stress the air frame. Normal category light aircraft are rated to -1.5 to +3.8Gs. (That's for a new aircraft) A botched roll can easily hit 4.5 or higher.

If you over stress the air frame, you might just put a lot of very expensive "wrinkles" in the skin that would be very hard to explain to the FBO, your boss, or the insurance company. Trashing the gyros would be cheaper.

If you're not lucky, the wings fold up and you fall out of the sky. It's a stupid way to die.

  1. Non-aerobatic aircraft typically have limited elevator authority; once upside down, you might find it very difficult to keep the nose pushed up high enough to keep the roll going. Turning a botched roll into a "split-S" is one of the worst "recovery" mistakes you can make, and you're setting yourself up for it.

  2. Non-aerobatic aircraft often have gravity-feed fuel systems. A little bit of 0 or negative "G" and it will get very very quiet in the plane. Some people consider this silence detrimental to the continued safety of the flight.

  3. Non-aerobatic aircraft rarely have inverted oil systems. As the engine gets quiet, it also loses most of its lubrication. Bare metal on metal friction can be detrimental to achieving TBO.

Having said all that, in the hands of an expert, it is technically possible to barrel roll most aircraft.

A good way to tell if you're an expert is to call your insurance company and tell them exactly what you plan to do. If they'll quote you affordable coverage, you might be an expert.

Obligatory links because if I don't include them someone else will:

If you want to roll an airplane, contact your local aerobatic club. In the US and some countries, it's the [International Aerobatic Club][5]. Get some competent dual instruction in a suitably rated airplane.
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ And as shown in the Bob Hoover video, a properly-executed barrel roll is a gentle positive-g maneuver all the way through. In theory, you could do this with any plane, as Tex Johnson demonstrated. In practice, don't do this unless you're Bob Hoover. $\endgroup$ Dec 30, 2013 at 22:40
  • 19
    $\begingroup$ +1 for "Some people consider this silence detrimental to the continued safety of the flight". That made my day. $\endgroup$ Aug 18, 2014 at 15:05
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ LOL super answer, dude :) $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Nov 12, 2017 at 13:14
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ on thing, the "iced tea" video is actually behind a BBC regionwall in most regions, perhaps someone has a better link for that. $\endgroup$
    – Fattie
    Nov 12, 2017 at 13:16
  • 6
    $\begingroup$ I’d give another +1 if I could for one of the the best universal life hacks ever seen on aviation SE so far: “A good way to tell if you're an expert is to call your insurance company and tell them exactly what you plan to do. If they'll quote you affordable coverage, you might be an expert.” $\endgroup$ Dec 19, 2018 at 17:43

A barrel roll, when properly executed, does not put the aircraft through any unusual stress and is possible with almost any aircraft.

However it is only true if it is properly executed. Make a small mistake and you can easily put more stress on the aircraft than it can handle, put it to a spin, starve the engines of fuel (if you let it slip into negative G) or simply loose spatial orientation (especially in older aircraft with mechanical gyroscope that would tumble) and then you'll end up like these two pilots in Cessna 550B Citation in Germany in 2010.

  • $\begingroup$ A barrel roll is not a ‘cross-controlled’ manoeuvre. Done properly, the slip/skid ball stays centred, a glass of water on top of the panel will stay in place with the water level exactly even. You could leave your seat belt unfastened and Mr Hoover could pour you a cup of tea. $\endgroup$
    – Forbes
    Jan 28, 2023 at 12:23

Do not even think about it unless you are an expert. I read about an incident in Sport Aviation in which a non-aerobatic performer rolled a piston twin. The airframe was overstressed and it broke up in flight. All four on board were killed.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ What if they are an expert aerobatic performer? $\endgroup$
    – Lnafziger
    Jan 12, 2014 at 23:18

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .