747 Fly a Loop

Q: Can a 747 fly a loop?

Surprisingly — or not — this is a question I get all the time. Any airplane can perform more or less any maneuver, theoretically, from loops to barrel rolls to a reverse inverted hammerhead Immelman (I just made that up). Whether it’s a good idea, however, is another story. Airliner components are not designed for aerobatics and may suffer damage — or worse — if forced into such scenarios. Plus, the cleaners would be up all night scrubbing out coffee stains and cleaning vomit.

During a demonstration flight in the late 1950s, a Boeing 707 was intentionally flown upside down.


This article is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.