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Peter Nesterov (Pyotr Nikolayevich Nesterov)

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Peter Nesterov

At the beginning of World War I, Peter Nesterov was perhaps the most famous Russian pilot, who later thanks to his successful military career, became an ace and pride for Russian aviation.Only two years after he took ​​his first flight, he performed the first "dead loop" in the history of aviation, being baptized later as "Nesterov’s Loop".For this feat, and for being an innovator of flight at that time, he is regarded as the founder of aerobatics.


Peter Nesterov was born in Nizhny Novgorod on February 27, 1887.Son of Nesterov Nikolai Fedeorovich and Margaret Fiodorovona, he began his military career out of the necessity of poverty. After the sudden death of his father, he was unable to afford a place to live and was forced to move with his ​​three brothers and his mother to a shelter for widows on August 26, 1897.There, Nesterov would enter into Nizhny Novgorod cadets military school, where his father had previously worked, to train and work as a soldier, completing his training in 1904.

After being one of the six best in school, Peter was sent to the Mikhailovsky Artillery School.He received, as was traditional in Russian artillery then, a good background in mathematics, which would later explain Nesterov’s interest and approach in conducting test flights.

In 1906, obtaining good results in his studies, he was promoted to sergeant serving the 9th East Brigade of the Siberian artillery in Vladivostok, where he personally developed rules for observation and shot correction for artillery thanks to his studies with balloons tethered by ropes.

In Vladikavkaz, Peter befriended Artemije Katsanom who was actively involved in the construction of gliders.Obsessed with the idea of designing his own plane and allowing people to "float freely," he worked hard on his project and after a year of research, in late 1910, built his own glider together with Petrovich Sokolov, son of the founder of the Nizhny Novgorod Society for Aeronautics.The glider did not fly for very long or go very high, but it was enough to encourage him to make his career in the sky.

From that moment, he decided to train as a pilot and in September 1912, he graduated as an aviator and fighter pilot, performing his first solo flight at 25 years old in the French biplane "Farman".At that time, he shared experiences with professionals and maintained friendships with legendary Russian pilots like Igor Sikorsky and Viktor M.Tkachev.Always very patriotic, he wanted the experts of his country to produce Russian planes, since at that time Russian pilots flew French planes. He also wanted to show that they were able to perform several complex maneuvers in the air.Unfortunately, Nesterov’s idea that he could perform a “dead loop” in a plane caused much ridicule and mistrust all around him.Peter Nesterov would have no choice but to put his words into practice.

Morane Saulnier Type G
Morane Saulnier Type G

August 12, 1912, he performed a flight which lasted 13 hours.Peter traveled 750km with his airplane-glider, being one of the first great things he did for Russian aviation.


In late 1912 Peter Nesterov was sent to Warsaw.He served in the Air Force flying the single-seater "Nieuport".In an effort to improve the combat effectiveness of the aircraft, he began experimenting with it, gliding with the motor off from a high altitude, falling and trying to perform difficult maneuvers like spirals above the field.The authorities were not amused by his experiments, as always trying to establish limits by setting pilot and combat rules.But the effectiveness of his techniques became evident when in January 1913, Nesterov had an engine fire and was forced to stop, which thanks to his previously-practiced gliding skills, saved him from an imminent death.

Nesterov's loop
Nesterov's loop

In May of 1913 Peter was sent to Kiev as squadron commander.He developed a special program for his pilots, and he trained specialists.He also introduced tactical coordination between air units and ground units, and perfected air combat tactics including nighttime aerial combat, which would later be widely used during World War I.

By this time, the name Peter Nesterov was already famous worldwide.He was considered a great military pilot, experimenter and innovator, breaking the barrier of the old rules of flight and implementing unprecedented long flights – he once flew from Kiev to Saint Petersburg and back in one day!This was extremely fast for 1913.Still, Nesterov was never satisfied and always wanted to go a step further.His dream was to perform the "dead loop," and he prepared for the dangerous experiment for a long time.On August 27, 1913, it happened.At the controls of a Newport-4 aircraft with a "Gnom" engine, he ascended above Syrezkiy field (Kiev) at a height of 1000 meters.He cut the engine and began a dive.At a height of 600 meters, he turned on the engine again and began to climb to complete the loop, and he flew back in a dive again with the engine cut.He then leveled the aircraft and spiraled down to land on the field.


About 12 days later, the French pilot Celestine Adolphe Pegoud performed the "dead loop," and this was widely reported in both the local and international press.In May 1914, Pegoud came to Saint Petersburg to show the public "the Loop."At that time, the authorities of the Russian Empire Aviation Club realized they had not officially registered the feat of their fellow Russian.On February 10, 1914, the Russian Aeronautical Society gave Nesterov an award for merit in aeronautical science and for being the first, without any doubt, to perform the "Dead Loop" which would later become "Nesterov’s Loop." They presented him with the Society’s Gold Medal.


In 1914 Peter ascended to squadron commander and captain.At the beginning of World War I, he was sent to the South-Western Front, where he participated in the liberation of Lviv.He proposed using Russian planes to complete an air raid with artillery specially designed for this purpose.Prior to this date, aircraft were fitted with revolvers or pistols that the pilots carried overhead, and the first air combat consisted of exchanges of fire and throwing grenades from above enemy aircraft.For this reason, the command of the Austrian army promised a large reward to anyone who managed to beat the aircraft of Peter Nesterov.

Nesterov's accident with his Albatros
Nesterov's accident with his Albatros

On September 8, 1914, near the city of Zholkva, Peter was in the air with a rival aircraft piloted by Franz Malina and Friederich von Rosenthal, flying reconnaissanceover Russian detachments in the aircraft "Albatros," at an unattainable height for anti-aircraft fire.Peter, at the controls of fast and light "Morane-G," was to intercept them.The Austrians tried to avoid the encounter, but Nesterov overtook them and hit them with his aircraft on the rudder surface of the Albatros.Both aircraft fell, and Nesterov, not wearing a seatbelt, fell from the plane causing his death.


Nesterov's aircraft accident parts

Nesterov's aircraft accident parts

Thus Peter Nesterov became the first fighter pilot in aviation history to make a "taran" (bringing down a plane by collision).

Peter Nesterov was buried in Kiev on January 25, 1915 and the Emperor of Russia awarded Piotr Nikolaevich Nesterov the Order of St. George (the highest award in Russia at the time) posthumously.

His name has been given to many streets of major Russian cities and to several monuments.Nesterov's name has also been given to an asteroid.

In 1962 the USSR gave the Nesterov trophy to the FAI (“Fédération Aéronautique Internationale,” or in English, the International Aeronautical Federation) to commemorate the feat of this famous pioneering Russian pilot who set the foundation for current-day aerobatics.Currently, the trophy is awarded to the winning team of the World Aerobatics Championships.

NesteroV Cup
Nesterov Cup
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"Aerobatics is the hidden rythm of our soul..."