I understand that the boot repulsors provide the lift/thrust and the palm repulsors provide stabilization but how is it capable of turning without a tail ruder of some sort? I know that there are flaps at various points for air braking but wouldn't he have to use them for doing a maneuver like the corkscrew/barrel roll?

  • You can use your arms and legs as a human to maneuver in free fall. I do not see why with practice Iron man would not be able to do the same.
    – Chad
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 14:45

4 Answers 4


If you watch his flight during the Avengers movie, his acrobatic flight technique is as follows:

  • As he is approaching the tesseract opening trying to stop the Chitauri he is flying at his maximum speed using his left hand as a stabilizer, his boot jets to direct his vector and his two thrust units on his back, to support his rolls.

  • He has his left hand turned palm down and uses his right hand repulsor as a weapon. It also creates drag when he uses it and he will take that drag and hard rotate into that drag.

Iron Man fights the Chitauri in the Avengers, shooting right handed Iron Man fights the Chitauri in the Avengers, using repulsors to dodge debris

  • He uses his two hands directed out in front of him to push himself out of the way of the falling debris.

  • That rotation makes his movement unpredictable to anyone targeting him but more importantly allows him to recharge his right repulsor and use his left as a weapon.

Iron Man fights the Chitauri in the Avengers, shooting left handed

  • On his back and shoulders he has some small control surfaces in addition to his jetpack units. It is the coordinated effort of his backpack jets, his planar surfaces, his repulsors, and his boot jets that allow him the advanced maneuvers he uses.

Iron Man fights the Chitauri in the Avengers, changing vectors using repulsors, backpack and boot jets.

  • The two backpack jets appear to have the ability to be directed independently.

Most of the flight scenes with Iron Man do not explain how he maintains a flight vector without an actual flight surface. The only way we can explain it is if we consider he is using himself as a flight surface.

Iron Man in flight from the Chitauri flying beast.

  • Sure, his arms are outstretched, creating a wing-like surface but it is entirely too small even with the thrust provided by his output surfaces. There is only one other possibility. Antigravity.

  • I theorize he is utilizing some of the antigravity technology created by his father in addition to his repulsor technologies. See: How much did Iron Man's Suitcase weigh?

  • Using antigravity would allow him to only have to worry about thrust and fly without the need of a wing-like surface or pesky physical rules like Bernoulli's Principle.

  • If you watch the scene where the suit flies down to save Tony after being thrown from Stark Tower, you will see the suit is covered in small flight surfaces, at the shoulder and hips. Are they sufficient to support a human in flight? Probably not, but they ARE highly visible in this clip.

  • 1
    He doesn't need an aerofoil. If jets/thrusters/whatever push downward with force greater than his own weight, he will go skyward. When he is in horizontal flight, he is forcing air to deflect downward, and if this is more than the air he deflects upward he won't lose altitude.
    – John O
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 5:23
  • Yes, but in the last picture for example, what is pushing UP? Boot jets, thrust. Repulsors direction, what is pushing up? His chest plate? Not a bad idea but not established during the story... Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 5:31
  • Deflecting air downward will cause you to lift, supposing you're not deflecting an equal amount upward. Only biplane wings have a proper cross section... practically no modern military craft rely on such. You know that missiles can travel horizontally, right? Additionally, look at that picture... his boots or hands could be angled downward slightly and we'd never be able to tell.
    – John O
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 5:34
  • Watched the entire sequence, his hands mostly point behind him. Missiles CAN travel horizontally but almost all of them boast small but quite noticeable wing like surfaces: check guided missiles, tomahawk, walleye. Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 5:41
  • Isn't the camera angled downwards in that last picture? So the boot repulsors are giving him lift...
    – Izkata
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 12:16

At least in the Iron Man and Avengers movies, I believe he uses his hand repulsors to maneuver.

  • It seems to me that those might work similar to thrusters on a space ship which provide minor course corrections but not major maneuvers like he does in the dog fight in Iron Man I or the aerial battle in Avengers
    – Monty129
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 1:19
  • He also specifically refers to them as "stabilizers" in Iron Man I.
    – Monty129
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 1:21
  • 1
    Wouldn't his boot repulsors make the major turns while the hand stabilizers keep the suit and the turn in line and controlled?
    – Ryan
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 13:12
  • That would make sense, but I don't recall that being how he turns in the movies.
    – rsegal
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 13:35

He had flight surfaces all over his suit, don't you remember the check Jarvis ran of them just before his first flight from his workshop. It was a fairly significant point in the film.

  • Control Surfaces would imply aelerons and a rudder, but I don't see where any of that would be. I do remember the scene in question though, so +1 for reminding me.
    – Monty129
    Commented Aug 13, 2012 at 21:14
  • @Monty129: Ailerons, rudder, and elevators are the standard primary flight control surfaces on conventional fixed-wing aircraft, but other aircraft configurations are possible. As William wrote, the first movie showed where all of them are during the check, and then you can see them in action during his first flight. You can see two of them on his back deployed here. Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 1:38

That's the least of his concerns. His entire surface is capable of helping him maneuver... at those speeds pulling one arm inward or outward just an inch will almost certainly cause his course to deviate, and quickly. My very limited understanding of unusual flight form factors / cross sections is that they're incredible maneuverable but also incredibly difficult to maintain stable flight. So it's not a matter of "how does he turn" so much as "how does he fly straight".

  • 2
    Well, fighter jets built under that principle use tiny course corrections, controlled by a computer, to go straight. And he does have Jarvis. And anyone who builds a perpetual-motion machine and program AI as a kid can probably write an algorithm like that to use his stabilizers for those course corrections.
    – rsegal
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 2:52
  • I guess I'm just thinking in terms of the Rocketeer who had to have the fin added to his helmet in order to bank and roll
    – Monty129
    Commented Aug 10, 2012 at 12:34
  • Having a huge fin on your helmet when flying at mach 2+ is a sure way to get your head snapped off, especially with the rapid turns and accelerations Iron Man does. Using a bunch of smaller control surfaces that are all over the suit (shoulder blades, calves, back, thighs, knees, traps, etc.) lets you turn your head while you're flying and is much safer. Commented Sep 2, 2013 at 1:51

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