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A tounneau of Boeing 727!

         It was dawn. Flying at night is already unnatural. As my FAB colleague Nei Furo used to say, if God had wanted us to fly at night, he would have given us headlights instead of eyebrows.

The flight was a check and the plane was a Boeing 727. Everyone in the cabin was tired. The checker on the right, the flight engineer on the dressing table and the captain in the Jump Seat. The co-pilot had already passed the check because, as is common with that company, they are well prepared and fly well and we still had ten minutes to spare to complete the flight. Then what I've always heard happens: "When you have nothing to do, you do something stupid.

         I like aerobatics. In fact, I think that those who have never seen the earth upside down have only enjoyed 20% of the pleasure that flying can give us. How many times, drinking beer at a barbecue at the Aeroclube do Rio Grande do Sul, in the company of friends from there, have I heard Casarin tell how he did a tounneau with a Boeing 737. The "old man" is really good. He doesn't like to tell the story or teach, perhaps so as not to encourage other attempts. But he did it, it turned out perfectly and he paid dearly for it.

          As I said, we still had ten minutes, the flight was local and we were over Rio de Janeiro. Everyone in the cabin was drowsy and we were about to land. I remembered the "old man" and forgot about common sense. I took the "two setão" towards runway 15 at Galeão, like someone coming from Caxias. At about 3000` on the altimeter, the speed was already around 370 kt and I pulled the nose up to about 30 degrees. At 350 kt, as instructed by him, I commanded the aileron tounneau. It's amazing to see how beautifully it turns. Boeing really has made some great airplanes, especially the 27, which is a good commander. It didn't pull a "G" and the speed didn't skyrocket. It was perfect.

From there, I sent another one the other way until I'd had enough. When I leveled off, the fellow on the right asked me to do "just one". Since I believe that aviation can have no mystery, I gave him the controls. At this point there was no one sleepy on board. Everyone was thrilled with the machine and the maneuvers. He picked up speed, called the nose and turned. He made the mistake most common to those who haven't yet practiced aileron tounneau. He didn't stop pulling on the nose before starting the wing turn and, as a result, when he passed the back, the nose dropped too low. In addition, he undid the aileron command, which resulted in an ''S'' split at low altitude.

          In this situation on the back, at low speed, nose down and close to the ground, I felt that bitter taste in my mouth when he said: "Fuck me...". I took over the controls, but without any hope of being able to do anything to get us out of that situation. The ground was growing fast and we could clearly see the lights of the Galeão runways falling behind us. We were close to the Rio-Niterói bridge, which made the scene even more macabre, given the blackness of the sea in Guanabara Bay, only decorated here and there by the lights of a ship.

There was no turning back. The plane is good, but it's not acrobatic. If it were, I could fly a half tounneau and in seconds I'd be back to normal flight. The only thing left to do was to pull the nose to the limit. I still tried to "cap" the engines and open the speed brake, but it was too late. You can think of so many things in seconds! The law of gravity is inexorable, it pulls you down mercilessly. It doesn't care whether you're old and have already lived your life, or young and inexperienced, wanting to live it; whether what you've done is right or wrong, whether it's allowed or not, whether you're alone or taking others with you, whether you've started the maneuver at the right time or whether, out of exhibitionism, you've done it "floor to floor".

That's why, at least so that you can have a clear conscience, if you ever find yourself in a similar situation, only perform stunts in aerobatic aircraft, in permitted locations, preferably alone and at a safe height.

I pulled the nose as hard as I could on the stick until I hit the ground, almost vertically. The noise was strange and so was the jolt. For almost a minute no one said anything. Everyone just looked at each other. I got up from my chair. I opened the door and invited everyone in for a cup of coffee. Then we'd come back to turn off the simulator, as our flight was the last of the night.

Gustavo Henrique Albrecht is a former FAB pilot, mining pilot, ultralight test pilot, President of ABUL - the Brazilian Ultralight Association, of which he was the founder. He flies around 80 different aircraft, including stunt planes, gliders, helicopters, hang gliders, paragliders and other flying objects.

Article originally published in SKYDIVE Magazine Year 1 N°5 1994.

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