Slow Rolls — Wow the Crowd

Slow Rolls — Wow the Crowd

Want to spice up this weekend’s flying? The slow roll is a challenging classic maneuver that’s actually much harder to perform than it looks. With a little practice, though, you’ll be ready to put on a show! 

Enter straight and level, full-power roll left

  1. Slowly add right rudder
  2. Maximum right rudder
  3. Smoothly release right rudder and begin to add down-elevator
  4. Maximum down-elevator
  5. Slowly release down-elevator and add left rudder
  6. Maximum left rudder
  7. Smoothly release left rudder and add up-elevator
  8. Slight up-elevator, exit straight and level


The slow roll is deceptively simple and is rarely seen at flying fields. A horizon-to-horizon slow roll requires careful timing of the aileron, rudder and elevator; this requires finesse. The control inputs are similar to those of the four-point roll with the exception of the aileron: it remains constant throughout the maneuver. Although I found it easier to learn the four-point roll first, some pilots think the slow roll should be mastered first.

The first step is to determine your plane’s roll rate. The roll should take at least five seconds. Get the plane up high, and enter a 30-degree climb at full power. Apply aileron in either direction to begin the roll, and apply down-elevator during the inverted segment. You will need to add more down-elevator than you would for a standard roll because the plane will spend more time inverted. Adjust the aileron input until you achieve the five-second target, and note how much aileron was required. For consistency, some pilots use dual rates to set the required throw. Now add the rudder and elevator inputs for the knife-edge positions. For a left slow roll, smoothly add right rudder as the plane approaches the first knife-edge position. Ease off the rudder input as the plane continues past knife-edge, and add down-elevator as it approaches inverted. Once past inverted, release the down-elevator, and add left rudder for the last knife-edge portion. Smoothly release the left rudder when past the knife-edge, and recover to straight and level flight. Use the same escape route as the four-point roll if things start to go awry; continue to roll back to straight and level. Properly performed, the slow roll is a very graceful maneuver that will impress your peers.

These are the building blocks for many of the maneuvers that are flown in pattern and precision aerobatic contests. It takes a lot of discipline to perfect them, but they add purpose to your flying. If you seek a challenge, and boring holes in the sky is becoming old hat, give these maneuvers a try. The only way to improve is practice, practice and more practice!


  1. This seems to be missing and important point. Before you try slow rolls, you should make sure your plane is properly balanced and any KE mixing is completed. If the plane isn’t trimmed for KE flight to reduce the required elevator correction, the slow roll becomes exponentially more difficult.

  2. For mode 1 flyers the coordination might be a little easier. Hold aileron on the right stick and slowly rotate the left (rudder and elevator) in a circular motion according to the attitude of the plane – really a one handed operation after the aileron is held constant.

  3. I also think this explanation is a bit too brief. A slow roll will require elevator at all points except when the aircraft is at knife-edge. You’ll never get to your first knife edge without blending in some up elevator, not and maintain your line. To prove the point, try holding the aeroplane at 45degrees on the straight as this will demonstrate the blend of elevator and rudder.

  4. I agree that Mode 1 flyers will find rolling manoeuvres much easier to do, including the flying of rolling circles.

    I have taught many people how to fly radio controlled model aircraft over the last 30 years, and it my experience that Mode 1 flyers learn much faster, and crash fewer models.

    Left handed pilots especially, often struggle to learn to fly using Mode 2. which results in many crashed models, and often giving up the hobby altogether.

    Mode 1 Flyers use both sides of their brains when using the primary control functions for Pitch and Roll of Elevator and Aileron……(Or Elevator / Rudder with the “Aileron” stick controlling the Rudder)

    In the 1970’s and 1980’s and most of the top aerobatic pilots flew Mode 1.

    So is Mode 2 really the very best, and easiest way to fly radio controlled model aircraft ??

    Or does the model “industry” prefer people to wreck more models before giving up the hobby ??

    1. Mode 1? I prefer to fly a plane similar to a full scale aircraft. I stick, elevator and ailerons!
      My trainees don’t crash! Not have several thousand my buddy taught at his flight school in Wisconsin.
      Crashing is caused by impatient pilots having to have that next new plane before perfection with their trainer!

  5. People have done slow rolls me included, for decades without any mixing. Making it exponentially more hassle for someone to try something new is worrying about programming.
    I slow roll with my apprentice after 36 years of flying that’s still fun.
    Proper plane set up, a given aka cg and travel

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