Basic Flight Maneuvers

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Basic Flight Maneuvers (BFM) is the collective name for all kinds Maneuvers you will employ in any mission be it in a bomber, fighter or transport aircraft. As in all things pertaining to air combat, full knowledge and control of the basics will inspire confidence in your ability to succeed. If you find yourself struggling with the easiest things, you cannot hope to manage the more challenging aspects of air combat.

Taxi and takeoff

As you spawn into the game world you will find yourself facing an altogether insufficient stretch of runway. The itch is strong to power up and take off immediately, and while this is possible in most cases it nevertheless makes good sense to start your mission by taxiing to a more propitious position. This is especially true if you sortie a medium bomber or a fighter with particularly high wingloading (e.g. FW-190, H-87), aircraft that need a wee bit more time and real estate to achieve proper takeoff speed. If you persist in taking off straight off the spawn-in position, make sure to:

  • Set engine RPM to maximum (hit ‘ key twice)
  • Trim tail heavy (K key, 10-15 taps)
  • Deploy flaps (Q) to increase lift
  • Select War Emergency Power (F8) to give maximum takeoff boost
  • Hold brakes (z and x) until the engine is running at full bore

Being careful and smart however, you elect to taxi out of the hangar to the perimeter of the field. Knock the throttle forward just enough to set you rolling, edge out of the hangar and unlock your tail wheel (or nose wheel if your aircraft has tricycle gear) with / key. Now tap the brake, z to turn left or x to turn right, until you face the desired takeoff position. Lock your tail wheel again with / key and motor gently forward to the selected spot. Once there, brake gently with unlocked tail wheel to slew around with the whole field before you. Make sure to lock the tail wheel again. All of this takes no more than 30 seconds and will save you a ton of grief compared to smashing into hangars and trees time and time again.

  • Now for the takeoff. Go through the routine bulleted above and start your takeoff roll by releasing brakes. Your aircraft will display a more or less pronounced tendency to swerve either right or left – this is engine torque at work. Counteract this yaw by adding a smidgeon of rudder in the direction opposite to the yaw motion, e.g. if you yaw left, tramp down (or twist your stick) to give right rudder – be careful of overcompensating though.
  • If you do not have the benefit of rudder control, use short taps on the appropriate brake (z and x) to correct your course.
  • You will also experience a sickening tilt in the horizontal (i.e. of your wingline) due to engine torque. Counteract this rolling motion with a touch of opposite aileron: move the stick gently to left or right depending on which way your propeller rotates.
  • As you start to pick up speed the nose will come down (in so-called taildraggers, aircraft with tail wheel) and reveal the runway in its full glory. You may want to push the stick very gently forward to help the nose along in the beginning of your takeoff roll, as this will reduce the yawing and rolling motion described above. Careful so you do not dig a hole though!
  • Roll three quarters down the length of the field and feel the aircraft. At first it will be jittery and hard to control, followed by a period of stability and leech-like behavior. Shortly thereafter you will gain takeoff speed and “rotate” with only a small amount of back pressure on the stick.
  • If you used WEP, remember to toggle it off (F8). Retract flaps (W) and raise the undercarriage (G). Praise the n00b - you are on your way!


You will want to land your aircraft for one single reason: to harvest points earned in the mission so that you may gain rank and access to better performing aircraft. And while you are at it, why not make it a nice professional landing instead of an ugly prang!

  • Landing is a lot more than pointing your nose at the field and plowing down, hoping for the best. The main things to consider are AIRSPEED and RATE OF DESCENT. You will want to come in at a slow speed and a low rate of descent, because the opposite – a high speed and rapid rate of descent – is what makes for spectacular crashes.
  • The key to a splendid landing is to manage your descent with your THROTTLE. Ideally, you should maintain a slight back pressure on the stick and avoid using your elevators for height corrections – that is what your throttle is for.

A good landing begins with a good and measured approach – not straight at the field but more than one full turn radius to the side of it. In the following example you will be landing in the standard counter-clockwise pattern.

  1. You are approaching home plate at 1000 ft/300 m, throttle fully forward.
  2. As you spot the airfield in the distance, reduce to quarter throttle and hold your present altitude. Speed will drop off gradually. Aim for a point in the air well to the side of the field.
  3. You pass the field on the so-called “downwind leg”, watching it over your port (left) wing. Speed has now bled off to about 120 mph/200 kmh and you maintain your altitude.
  4. With the field now behind you to the left, make a gentle 90-degree turn to put the field fully to your side over the wingtip. Trim your crate tail heavy (K key, repeatedly).
  5. Deploy flaps. You are still at about quarter throttle. Keep the propeller at or just above the horizon with slight back pressure on the stick, and continue trimming tail heavy.
  6. With the intended landing direction aligned with your wingline, make a steady turn to port and line up on the final stretch. You are now on the glide path and should be doing about 70mph/110kmh, with a VsI readout of –2 to –4. Deploy landing gear (G).
  7. Focus on the spot where you want to touch down – this should be just inside the airfield perimeter, not in the middle of the field – and manage your descent with throttle only. Keep the prop on the horizon still, not below it.
  8. Maintaining your attitude and a steady back pressure, work with the throttle to correct your descent rate. If you descend too rapidly (watch the VsI instrument) your speed is too low and you will belly in unless you spin out first. If your speed is excessive despite chopping to zero throttle, you will overshoot your mark and end up in the trees.
  9. Shortly before touching down, reduce VsI yet more to –1 or less by raising the nose with back pressure on the stick (this is known as to “flare” your aircraft), and set it down ever so gently for a three-point landing.
  10. Once down, chop throttle entirely, retract flaps (W) and let the aircraft coast. Tap the brakes gently and come to a complete stop.
  • If you feel that you are going to overshoot the field because your speed or your altitude is too high, give full throttle and go around for another try. Resist the temptation to nose down to force a landing.
  • For emergency landings, reduce speed and altitude either by S-turns or by sideslipping. Experienced pilots can knife-edge their aircraft to minimum altitude and plonk down on the runway with a minimum of fuss – as will you, eventually.
  • If the airfield is under fire from ground troops, or if you have reason to suspect that enemy snipers are about, do not come to a full stop on the field but keep coasting slowly as you exit the aircraft (Esc key).

Climbing and diving

You might think that climbing and diving is uncomplicated and not requiring finesse – that it is merely a matter of pointing your nose up or down. On the face of it, that is all there is to it, yet you need to use your brain in this department as well. You will also need to understand the concept of Trim and Engine Management to become successful in the long run.

  • The thing to consider is rate of ascent/descent, and to weigh your rate against your mission status and the prevailing circumstances.

Climbing (ascending)

  • A moderate rate of ascent (3000 ft/min or 1000 m/min) covers more ground and allows you to retain maneuvers speed that will come in handy if you are bounced during the climb to altitude.
  • An aggressive rate of ascent (10000 ft/min or 3000 m/min) gets you up to altitude faster but forces you to climb at a slow airspeed, thus you cover less ground and makes you a sitting duck against surprise attack.
  • Whichever rate of ascent you settle for, make sure to be trimmed to a neutral state (i.e. not requiring back pressure on the stick) so as to minimize drag and to climb at a steady constant rate. If your crate is trimmed nose heavy you will have to fight the stick all the way up to altitude, conspiring to make your flight porpoise-like and uneven. You will know whether you are trimmed right for your current speed by letting go of the stick – when trimmed correctly the crate will maintain a steady and positive attitude without back pressure on the stick.
  • If you are in a hurry to altitude, use WEP (F8) early on in the mission to gain the greatest benefit of the extra boost without the engine overheat penalty. Remember that WEP is more effective at low altitude than above 10,000 ft/3 km.
  • Do the bulk of your climbing well away from enemy fighters to minimize your vulnerability and so that you will be heading into “indian country” already at your selected altitude with a good head of steam.
  • Never climb to a fight. Being low and slow below a dogfight or below maneuvering enemy fighters is certain to cause you grief. If you must climb to engage, put some distance between yourself and the enemy before climbing, then enter the fight at or above the enemy level.

Diving (descending)

  • Before you go diving down on the enemy below, consider where you will want to end up: turning and frolicking in a dogfight; recovering to altitude directly above the enemy; recovering to altitude well past the bounce – in a specific direction that puts you either in harm’s way or out of it; or extending well away to draw fully out of visual range of enemy aircraft before returning to the fray.

The examples above directs you to descend with an idea of what you intend to accomplish.

  • If you intend to stay and fight a sustained close range combat at the enemy level, from a position of superior advantage, you are best served by spiraling down with chopped throttle (to slow down further, deploy flaps momentarily) until your energy advantage is substantial rather than excessive – if you arrive below with too much energy, your maneuvers envelope will be severely restricted and cause blackouts and further loss of energy and position below the enemy level.
  • If you intend to recover just above the enemy following your attack, make your attack run at an angle of 45-60 degrees so that you will not “bottom out” too far below the target. Thus you will avoid blacking out as you recover and use your overhead of energy to regain a superior position.
  • If you intend to extend well beyond the disadvantaged enemy below, or if you wish to disengage fully after your attack, make your attack at 30-60 degrees and only recover gently after your run to maximise the distance traveled at high speed.

It is generally a very bad idea to cede superior altitude and destroy your considerable energy advantage unless you can score a clean kill. Use your altitude advantage wisely to give you several engagement opportunities!

In all your diving attacks, make sure to trim your aircraft nose heavy (I) so that you will not have to fight the nose down with stick input. Ideally you will want to fly a straight path with minimum stick input – this will make your flight comfortable and controlled, and yield stronger, more concentrated, punch when you fire.

  • You will note that speed in the dive increases when you set your RPM to Continuous or Economy (;) as this causes less parasitic drag from the propeller blades.
  • For extended dives, make sure to reduce or even cut throttle entirely lest you build up an excess of speed that makes your aircraft nigh impossible to control. Watch your Indicated Speed! If you do enter the compressibility range, your ailerons and elevators will lock up and send you straight down into the dirt. If so, cut throttle, set Maximum RPM, and use elevator trim up (K) to recover a positive attitude. Remember to power up when you recover!


You will probably not encounter any problems in this department, although there are some things to keep in mind that will aid you in combat.

  • For simple navigation (i.e. effecting course changes) it is generally best to make steady “bomber turns” with the wingline banked at no more than 30-45 degrees and a sustained light back pressure on the stick – this causes only minimal drag and keeps your speed up.
  • When you need to change heading in a hurry, quarter-roll quickly to bank the aircraft and pull back with a sustained and decisive back pressure to make a drastic turn. Release back pressure and roll back to level as you are about to come onto the desired heading.
  • Drastic turns incur a drag penalty that reduces airspeed somewhat and may cause you to black out momentarily depending on your airspeed and the stick force exerted.
  • The time necessary to enter the turn is improved somewhat by adding down rudder (e.g. you tramp left rudder briefly for a left turn), although this also comes with a drag penalty and may throw you off kilter if you give too much rudder. Experiment!

Flat turns such as described above are only recommended for navigation and pre-engaged maneuvering – if you have sufficient energy, it is far better to make use of the vertical for engaged manoeuvring. Consider a standard nose-to-nose fight, starting with a straight run at your opponent: he who makes a flat turn must pay a heavy penalty in energy, space and time since when turning in the purely horizontal he must fight gravity instead of drawing benefit from it. By reversing (i.e. turning around) in the vertical or with a certain vertical element added to the horizontal (also known as oblique), the fighter receives a gravity assist both on the way up and on the way down. Going up, airspeed is traded for altitude and position; once at the apex of the vertical maneuvers the cost of pulling angles is minimized; going down, altitude is cashed in for airspeed used to exploit the position gained with the added benefit of a clean and unloaded deflection shot.

Another way of turning is the so-called “Boat Turn”, which can be used as a combat maneuver under very specific circumstances. It is associated with a heavy drag penalty and thus robs you of substantial airspeed. To perform a boat turn, simply give maximum rudder in the desired turn direction while adding opposite aileron to keep the wings level, and a small amount of elevator pressure to keep your current attitude. The wings-level turn is quite disturbing to watch and yet more difficult to compute from a shooter’s perspective – though remember that it carries a heavy energy price tag and requires far more space and time in comparison with a standard banked turn.

Aileron roll

An aileron roll is performed by pushing the stick sideways and holding it there. The cost in energy is negligible. Practice doing exact aileron rolls at various rates of degrees per second: quarter-roll, half-roll, three-quarter roll and full roll. Practice reversing your rolls as well: roll left to inverted, hold, and roll right to “sunny side up”, without loss of altitude and while maintaining your general heading.

Barrel roll

The barrel roll is essentially a gentle aileron roll with the addition of a vertical element. Start the barrel roll by quarter-rolling and pulling back on the elevators. Continue the rolling motion but relax your back pressure somewhat so that you maintain your general heading. Increase backward pressure again as you pass through an inverted (i.e. upside-down) state, and keep rolling with a slight pressure until you regain a positive attitude on the same level as you entered the maneuver. The barrel roll can be sustained with little energy loss, though it is somewhat disorienting. Experiment by varying the amplitude of your barrel roll through applying more or less elevator pressure.

Snap roll

The snap roll is a "quick roll" that is made possible by stalling one wing - a stall implying a loss of lift, which in turns means a loss of airspeed - by aggressive use of rudder, aileron and elevator at the same time, while the other wing is still producing lift and maintaining speed. This is normally executed near stall speed by adding full rudder input, followed by same direction aileron, followed briskly by full elevator up input. This classic definition of a snap roll does however not work very well in WWIIOL, with few exceptions. A passable snap roll is instead effected by briskly adding full elevator to full aileron (while maintaining full aileron).

Be advised that the benefit of the snap roll - a lightning quick roll rate at little cost in energy - is associated with a considerable drawback: the maneuver is extremely drastic and reduces your situational awareness by a fair margin, and you will probably struggle with recouping your senses at a time when such respite is not normally granted. Also be advised that certain aircraft cannot perform the snap roll with any degree of dignity. The Bf 109 and Bf 110 series in particular does not take kindly to snap rolls, and the D.520, the Bell Mle.14 and the P-38 also struggle somewhat with performing the snap roll.

Skid and Sideslip

Skidding is a means to shed energy and reduce airspeed. It is useful for landings when you are coming in with entirely too much airspeed; for “braking” to remain behind a slower opponent; and for “braking” to flush a faster opponent behind you forward of your wingline and before your guns.

If you have practiced the Boat Turn you will already be familiar with the benefit of using your rudder in conjunction with opposite aileron input. The Skid works in much the same way: give full rudder and opposite aileron for a second or two to plow more or less straight forward, wings essentially level or just a tad high to keep you going straight ahead. Alternate left and right rudder (with opposite aileron input) to Fishtail through the sky. You will see your energy bleed off at a high rate, and lose quite a bit of altitude as well unless you keep your nose somewhat high during the maneuver.

The Sideslip is a more pronounced Skid. Roll your wingline 45 degrees to the horizon and give sustained and heavy top rudder (if you are banked to left, right rudder is your top rudder, closest to the sky) to bring the nose well above the horizon. You will shed both airspeed and altitude at a high rate. Note that you are not flying where your gunsight points you in this maneuver but rather “wingroot forward”.

A yet more drastic sideslip is the Knife Edge: quarter-roll to bring your wingline perpendicular to the horizon and give maximum bottom rudder. In this attitude your rudder acts as your elevator, and your elevator as your rudder. This maneuver is useful for shedding altitude and for sustained observation of the ground along a straight path. It carries a steep energy price however, as you might have guessed.

Loop de loop (looping)

The Looping is not a combat maneuver. If you must loop in combat, use it sparingly, for it is extremely predictable and robs you completely of situational awareness. To perform a Looping you need to be flying level and at a good turn of speed, the more the merrier. You may want to increase your airspeed yet further by making a slight dive of a few hundred meters before entering the maneuver. So, after you pick up speed, pitch up with determination and hold a sustained backward pressure to inscribe a vertical circle. Do not push the zoom so far that you wallow at the top while inverted, but make sure to keep your airspeed throughout. Once over the top, head on down to your former position in the sky with a continued sustained backward pressure. Make sure to keep the wingline horizontal throughout the maneuver, and watch where you are going in the 45-degree up view. There you go, a looping.


The Chandelle is simply a wide climbing turn. Make it gently and at a sustained rate from a level maximum speed state, and avoid bleeding off too much airspeed too soon. You will want to come out of the Chandelle at manoeuvre speed, not at stall speed. The Chandelle is a typical pre-engagement maneuver where you sound out the enemy and seek position. It can also be employed more aggressively in combat, see Rope-A-Dope in the Advanced Combat Maneuvers section.

Use of flaps and rudder in combat

Flaps, the large moving surfaces inboard of your ailerons that deploy to increase the wing’s lift area, are normally used for landing only. They can however be used successfully in combat as well, for the same reason: they increase lift (and increase drag, thereby slowing you down). And when you increase lift in a slow and tight turning fight, you can turn yet tighter and thus gain a favorable shot position. The WWII Online flaps operation is simplistic yet variable: if you do not tweak your aircraft setup the flaps will either be fully retracted or fully deployed, even if your aircraft historically had incremental flap settings. By the same token, aircraft that did not have incremental flap settings can be tweaked to have such in the game.

If you do not tweak your settings to offer “combat flaps”, you need to be wary of deploying flaps at speeds over 250 kmh/150m mph as prolonged use at excessive speed will damage the flaps and even render them inoperable. Therefore, should you opt to use flaps to gain a positional advantage, only use them briefly and at lower speeds. Your flaps can be tweaked by editing you cfml file, the information can be found Here

  • The use of rudders, either foot pedals or in the form of a twist-action stick, is highly recommended. Without rudder control you are robbing yourself of an entire plane of maneuver: yaw (lateral movement). Flying without rudder control is like trying to do breaststrokes with your hands tied behind your back!
  • Use rudder control to correct your takeoff roll; to skid, sideslip and knifedge; to slice inside an opponent’s turn; to slice up while turning; to yaw into a guns opportunity while heading right past an enemy; to correct a strafing approach, just to name a few. If you have rudder control, do not be afraid to use it. And if you are afraid to use it, experiment offline until you get the hang of it.

Auto Pilot

All WWIIOL aircraft come equipped with an Auto Pilot, or rather, a “level lock” feature. To engage the autopilot you must be trimmed to a level and neutral state – check your VsI (Vertical Speed Indicator) and Artificial Horizon instruments. If the VsI is off neutral by more than just a little, the AP will not engage and you must correct elevator trim as required. Unfortunately the AP can not be set to follow waypoints while you walk the dog or fetch a cold one in the refrigerator. What’s more, the AP, if engaged below max level speed at your current throttle setting, will disengage if the speed differential is great enough. Thus, if you plan to be away for quite some time, allow the aircraft to settle at a steady speed before engaging the AP.

  • Engage and disengage Autopilot by pressing "left ctrl A".
  • You will know that the AP is engaged/disengaged by looking at the text buffer, where a text will announce Autopilot status.

Use of Waypoints

Whenever you fly a standard mission there will be two waypoints, Origin and Target, which, to make matters more confusing, can be centered on the same locale (i.e. your airfield). When you spawn in, the little yellow arrow seen in the overhead map (M) is always pointing at your Target. If you, when returning to base, wish to be guided to your airdrome instead of back to the enemy-infested target, you must right-click on your airfield on the overhead map and set the waypoint there to Active.

If the mission leader has set additional waypoints to lay a specific course other than the straight “Origin to Target” option, you must select each waypoint in turn on the overhead map and make them Active by right-clicking if you wish to follow the plan – which you of course will want to do. The waypoints will be numbered and may have descriptions as well beyond the generic A# for Attack and R# for Rally.

Graduate with Advanced Combat Maneuvers

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