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Flipped Airliners

Thu Feb 17, 2000 5:44 am

A while ago in Airliners magazine there was a picture of a Boeing 707's wing upside down, the pilot had flipped it mid-flight. I'm pretty sure most airliners can do this and remain stable inverted for a while, but does anyone know anything about this? (How fast you'd have to go, what airplanes can/can't, how long you could hang upside down, etc.)?

RE: Flipped Airliners

Thu Feb 17, 2000 6:22 am

The picture was of THE Boeing 367-80 (707 prototype) in 1954 when the 707 was being demonstrated to an IATA conference in Seattle.

The test pilot (who's name was Tex Johnston & whose copilot was called Dick Schlesh) thought it impressive if he could roll the 707 - but he did not roll it exactly.

He performed what is called a chandel - basically it is a perfectly safe 1G maneuver done in such a way that you never have the sensation that you are upside down as you are constantly forcing the aircraft on the outside of the radius of the curve.

The photo was snapped by Dick Schlesh while his companion in the left hand seat was very busy dealing with the maneuver. The photo is incredibly famous of the engines on top of the wing with Puget Sound below.

Hope this helps!

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RE: Flipped Airliners

Thu Feb 17, 2000 6:55 am

I believe a TWA 727 did a barrel roll many years ago during severe turbulance without any apparent damage.
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RE: Flipped Airliners

Fri Feb 18, 2000 2:38 am

Re: DLMD-11 & Chris:

I can remember seing an interview with Tex Johnston (is is the late Tex?) who said that the Boeing board were none too impressed with his manouvre and that he was banned from ever doing it again.

Did the TWA 727 flip because of some sort of aerodynamic setting to the horizontal T-tail surface? Anyone remember? I can re-call that the a/c was slowed down in the resultant dive by the lowering of the landing gear.
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Fri Feb 18, 2000 7:20 am

The maneuver you're describing is a barrel roll. You bring the nose up a little and feed in the ailerons and a little rudder (although the need for rudder depends on the airplane). Done correctly, you'll maintain 1G throughout the roll and the airframe will be stressed as though flying straight and level.

Tex did two barrels in front of the crowd that day, and Eddie Rickenbacker was reputed to a later said at a party at the Boeing CEO's house, "Damn Tex, why didn't you tell me you were going to do that? I would have rode in the jumpseat with you!" (or something pretty close to that). They had previously rolled the aircraft before on a test flight, so they knew it was safe enough to perform in front of the crowd. It was Tex's idea of "selling" an airplane.

I don't see why even the big stuff (747, L-1011, A340, etc) couldn't do the same thing.

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