Ask the pilot Rasmus Ilsø Olsen

Ask the pilot: Is it possible to perform a loop on a commercial airplane?

The experts with all the answers are, of course, the pilots.

November 2022
How fast can a plane actually fly? Does it always take the most straight-forward route? Can you do a loop in one? And what does it take to actually fly one? 
The people with the answers are the SAS pilots.

”The gravitational force can be four times greater as is the strain on the wings. At the same time, the pilot’s blood is forced downwards making him or her feel light-headed.”

Is it possible to perform a loop on a commercial airplane? If so, would there be a moment of weight-lessness? /Andreas

Hi Andreas!

A loop is an aerobatic maneuver initiated by pulling the nose up and continuing around to make a 360° circle, which is called an inside loop, or by pointing the nose down – an outside loop. An inside loop will put the pilot and aircraft under substantial G load which happens when you suddenly pull back on the flight controls. The gravitational force can be four times greater as is the strain on the wings. At the same time, the pilot’s blood is forced downwards making him or her feel light-headed. Most aerobatic aircraft are approved for around 6G, which is the point at which many untrained pilots would experience a blackout. Commercial aircraft are also approved for a maximum G load. For example, an Airbus is approved for -1 to +2.5 G. Most other commercial aircraft have the same G limitations since they are built to the same standards. On these aircraft, you would be able to start a loop but it would stress the wings -beyond their limits and you’d probably end up pointing the nose of the aircraft up to the point where it would stall and the plane would start falling to the ground. 

Loop an aircraft built for aerobatics

So the answer is basically no, you cannot loop a commercial airliner. You can, however, loop an aircraft built for aerobatics. These usually have a better weight-to-power ratio than a commercial jet and would have sufficient power to bring the aircraft all the way around without stalling. If it’s done correctly, you wouldn’t feel weightless as there would be a positive G load even at the top of the loop. 

I hope this answers your question!

Rasmus Ilsø Olsen
Chief Pilot


Rasmus Ilsø Olsen

Title: Chief Pilot
Years at SAS: 23
Home base: Copenhagen
Flies: Airbus A320
Flight hours: 11,000
Favorite airport: Copenhagen