Pyotr Nikolayevich Nesterov- the founder of aerobatics

By Willie Bodenstein

Pyotr Nikolayevich Nesterov was a famous Russian pilot who is considered the founder of aerobatics. It was Nesterov who performed the so-called "dead loop" for the first time.

Nesterov was born on 15 February 1887 in Nizhny Novgorod. His father was an army officer. He was enrolled in a military school from which he graduated in August 1904 and then enrolled in the Mikhailov artillery academy in St Petersburg. He graduated and as second lieutenant and was posted to the 9th East Siberian Artillery Brigade in Vladivostok.

Nesterov's career in aviation started in 1909
when he was posted to a balloon observation regiment as an observer. In 1911 he built his first glider and learned to fly it. Now thoroughly hooked he started flight training at the St. Petersburg aviation school earning his wings on 11 October 1912 and a short time later he also passed the examination to be a military pilot. In May 1913 he was appointed a squadron leader in the Russian Air Corps.

Nesterov's Loop Nesterov always believed that with the right planning and practise that an aircraft could be made to fly a loop. His peers thought such a manoeuvre impossible.

Despite their doubts Nesterov carried on experimenting and practising his theory and on 9 September 1913 he took to the sky
in a Nieuport IV monoplane over Syretzk Aerodrome near Kiev and observed by a large crowd became the first pilot to fly a loop.

However, the authorities were not impressed and he promptly arrested for risking government property.

It was only after
Frenchmen, Adolphe Pégoud, repeated the feat that Nesterov's achievement was acknowledged in his home country. He became famous overnight and was promoted to staff captain and later awarded a medal.

Nieuport IV. Photo © British Gov. Archives /

Monument in Nizhny Novgorod of the Nieuport IVG in which Nesterov performed the first loop. Photo © Bestalex /
The Nieuport IV was a development of the single-seat Nieuport II and two seat Nieuport III.A. It was initially designed as a two-seat sporting and racing monoplane, but was also bought by the air forces of several countries.

It was initially powered by a 50 hp (37 kW) Gnome Omega rotary engine, which was later replaced by more powerful rotaries.

The IV.G was one of the principal aircraft used by the Imperial Russian Air Service during its formative years, with roughly 300 being produced locally by the Russo-Baltic Wagon Works and Shchetinin in St. Petersburg, and the Dux Factory in Moscow.

A painting of the Aerial ramming attack performed by Pyotr Nesterov.
Aircraft were still unarmed at this early stage, and Nesterov became the first pilot to destroy an enemy airplane in flight. On 25 August 1914 (by the Old Style calendar still used in Russia), after trying various methods on previous occasions unsuccessfully, he used his Morane-Saulnier Type G (s/n 281) to ram the Austrian Albatros B.II reconnaissance aircraft of observer Baron Friedrich von Rosenthal and pilot Franz Malina from FLIK 11. Eager to destroy enemy aircraft, he probably intended to hit it with a glancing blow but damaged his own aircraft as much as the enemy's and both planes crashed. As was common for the time, Nesterov was not strapped in and he fell from his plane, dying of his injuries the next day. The Austrian pilot and observer also died.

The Soviet Union established the Nesterov Cup for the best aerobatics team. The cup was donated to the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FIA) in 1962. It is awarded to the Men's World Team Champions of the World Aerobatic Championships.

Sport Aerobatics

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