I saw the movie Flight last night, and one of the terrifying sequences is when the pilot, Denzel Washington, inverts the plane to regain control from a sudden plunge.
Hollywood imagination gone wild?
No, as Smithsonian Air and Space says
“Gravity and other forces conspire against conventional flight, but they are positively Machiavellian about inverted flight. Pity the first pilot who rolled inverted and sailed blithely along, only to hear the engine cough and die of fuel starvation when the gas settled in the top of the tank, or have the engine seize when the oil did likewise. Engineers and designers have conspired in return. Here are a few devices that enable inverted flight and transitional maneuvers, or at least make them less of a struggle.”
Here’s the reality, though. Commercial planes do not have inverted fuel systems, so only in catastrophic situations, and only for a minute or two could you fly that way. It’s been done in a handful of real life situations. That is what the movie shows – once they stop their stall with the inversion, they glide to an emergency crash landing.
And no, I have no desire to be on such a flight.