15-tonne plane's roll: an evasive maneuver rather than an airshow stunt

The tonneau, or roll, is an acrobatic maneuver in which the aircraft performs a complete 360 degree rotation around its longitudinal axis. Although it is usually performed by fighter jets, few transport aircraft are able to perform it safely. Among them, the C-27J Spartan of the Italian Air Force as the picture below, taken during Jesolo Air Extreme 2011 airshow, shows.

Although the majority of airshow spectators thinks that a roll by a 15 tonnes plane is just a way to show its maneuverability, this kind of maneuver retains a degree of usefulness in a tactical situation. As RSV (Reparto Sperimentale Volo – Italian Test Wing) test pilot Capt. Gianmarco Di Loreto explained during the C-27J display, the roll could be the faster way to reverse a turn when the transport aircraft detects a threat or comes under enemy fire and needs to follow the less predictable flight path.

Below: the entire sequence of the roll performed during Air Extreme 2011


About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.