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Wow the Crowd with a Slow Roll!

Wow the Crowd with a Slow Roll!

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!

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  1. The article is confusing. First it says no aileron input is used then it goes on to describe what is basically a four point roll.

    1. The author uses the term “roll” which is what happens when you use the ailerons. The article is actually very clear.

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