FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND-- While watching test pilots fly at the Farnborough Air Show, you might get the impression that the law of gravity is only a polite suggestion. There are no trophies for fancy flying, but dazzling performances can seal multibillion-dollar aircraft deals. Catching on fast to the ways of capitalism, Russia's legendary Sukhoi Design Bureau announced that its hottest new fighter, the Su-37MR, would demonstrate a seemingly impossible aerial maneuver called a kulbit, which is Russian for circle.
In this maneuver, the pilot uses the plane's engine-thrust-diverting capability to lift its nose and then twirl it around 360°, virtually pivoting on its tail. By the time it has completed this tight-diameter loop, its airspeed has dropped to below 50 knots.
This gives the pilot an opportunity to fire at an enemy streaking past and earns the Su-37MR the nickname "Flanker." Russian test pilot Yevgeny Frolov performed the kulbit maneuver several times. Unfortunately for Frolov, only a few journalists and janitors who were working after the show got to watch. The show's rules committee wouldn't let Frolov fly his fanciest moves during the public exhibition because they said he couldn't control his plane well enough to keep it from flying over spectator areas..
|Modified January 22, 1998;||Back to|