Inspired by this Far Side cartoon, which shows the pilots of (presumably) a passenger airliner rolling the plane steeply from side to side, and claiming (to the passengers) that they’re just passing through some turbulence.

Are there any known instances of airline pilots actually doing something like that during revenue flights? Yes, I am perfectly aware that this would be considered highly unprofessional behaviour, and, as we all know, pilots never behave unprofessionally.

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    $\begingroup$ I have a second hand story from a reliable source (crew, family) who tells of at least one instance of this. I sincerely believe it's true. $\endgroup$
    – acpilot
    Commented Mar 12, 2019 at 6:05

1 Answer 1


Recent discussion with friends who work or worked for one major US airline, say they never witnessed such a thing.

One of them points out that on Navy P3 flights, they would do it to newbies. Not often, but sometimes to recalibrate newbies.

With respect to commercial flights, all pointed out that flight attendants are at high risk for injury, and would not tolerate such actions. All it takes is one person getting hurt. A neck injury from an unsecured passenger, or a burn from hot coffee happen often enough on flights with "natural" turbulence. Creating turbulence could be career ending, and could have civil liability.

The population of pilots I was dining with are all over 45, and tend to be rather risk adverse. One, who has been retired for quite some time (he's in his 80's) says that people joke about it, but in all his experience, he too has never witnessed "pilot induced turbulence."

I have a blow-up of that far-side at my desk, though...

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    $\begingroup$ Another point is that (at least from my limited experience) aerobatics aren't all that rough. For instance, if you couldn't see outside during a loop or roll, you might not notice much, while turbulence can have you banging your head on the cabin roof in spite of being belted in. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 18:44
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    $\begingroup$ If Bob Hoover did it you wouldn't even spill your tea! $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 19:10

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