Aerobatic Flight

In 1908, Wilbur Wright flew the first public exhibitions of a Wright Flyer in France. It wasn't long before aviation meets began thrilling crowds of spectators with races; altitude records; climbing and diving; and dramatic turns. Developing aerobatic maneuvers helped the military improve fighter tactics and aircraft technology.Today, aerobatic flight remains an exhilarating type of flying in which a pilot performs precision maneuvers. Civilian pilots fly aerobatics for fun, competition, or air show performance. Military pilots use aerobatic flight for combat tactics. Millions of spectators watch aerobatic demonstrations each year at air shows. Aircraft used for aerobatics range from barnstormer-style biplanes to the latest military fighter jets.


Pitts Special S-1C Little Stinker at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Pitts Special S-1C Little Stinker
Betty Skelton bought this airplane in 1948, and with it she won the 1949 and '50 International Feminine Aerobatic Championships. Her impressive flying skill and public relations ability heightened awareness of both aerobatics and the Pitts design. Skelton sold Little Stinker in 1951, but she and her husband later reacquired it and donated it to the Smithsonian. A volunteer crew restored it from 1996 to 2001.

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Little Butch, Boeing Aviation Hangar with visitors

Monocoupe 110 Special Little Butch
Air show pilot and aerobatic champion W. W. "Woody" Edmondson thrilled audiences with his Monocoupe 110 Special throughout the 1940s. Edmondson, who named the airplane Little Butch for its bulldog-like appearance, placed second to "Bevo" Howard and his Bücker Jungmeister in the 1946 and '47 American Aerobatic Championships, but he won the first International Aerobatic Championship in 1948.

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Loudenslager Laser 200

Loudenslager Laser 200 Beautiful Obsession
With the Laser 200, Leo Loudenslager won an unprecedented seven U.S. National Aerobatic Championship titles between 1975 and '82, as well as the 1980 World Champion title. The airplane originated as a Stephens Akro, a sleek aerobatic design, but by 1975 Loudenslager had completely modified the airplane with a new forward fuselage, wings, tail, and cockpit. The Laser 200 emerged as a lighter, stronger, and more powerful aircraft, enabling Loudenslager to perform sharper and more difficult maneuvers.

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The Bucker Bu-133C Jungmeister at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Bücker Bü-133C Jungmeister
The Bücker Jungmeister dominated the aerobatic scene in Europe and the United States from the mid-1930s through the 1940s. Introduced in 1935 by Carl Bücker as a single-seat version of the Bü 131 A Jungmann, a two-place advanced aerobatic trainer, the Jungmeister became a favorite of European flying clubs.

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Grumman G-22 "Gulfhawk II" at the Udvar-Hazy Center

Grumman G-22 Gulfhawk II
One of the most exciting aerobatic aircraft of the 1930s and '40s, the Grumman Gulfhawk II was built for retired naval aviator and air show pilot Al Williams. As head of the Gulf Oil Company's aviation department, Williams flew in military and civilian air shows around the country, performing precision aerobatics and dive-bombing maneuvers to promote military aviation during the interwar years.

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