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Fly Systems


Think of the theater as a large box. The playing area is a small box inside that large box. The Fly Loft is the area outside the small box.

     - When flying pieces, In means the piece is moving toward the deck (or into the small box). Out means the piece is moving toward the ceiling (or out of the small box).

     - Most fly systems use long pipes called Battens or Pipes to attach soft goods, lights, set-pieces, speakers, etc.

Most fly systems use counter-weighting, which means putting as much dead weight on one side of the pulley as you do on the batten to make flying as smooth and safe as possible.

    - The old standard was the rope and sandbag system. Sandbags would hang from ropes to counterweight it some, and then the ropes would be lashed down to the Pin-rail.

      This system is still common for Cable Picks. A pick is used on either side of the stage to pull cables or curtains up and offstage to be more out of the way.

     - The modern standard is the counterweight arbor system. This utilizes traveling blocks called Arbors which can easily be loaded with Stage Weights. Each set of arbor and batten is called a Lineset. The front rope (rope closest to the flyman) is called the Purchase Line and moves in the same direction as the batten.

     - To bring a curtain in, the flyman will Crash it, which means pooling the curtain on the floor to bring the batten all the way down to working height and the arbor up to the weight floor.

     - When a lineset is Pipe Heavy, there is more weight on the pipe than the arbor. When a lineset is Arbor Heavy, there is more weight on the arbor.

     - This system is operated from the flyrail, and only operated by the flymen.

Counterweight Fly System.jpg

It is often a good idea to Mouse a shackle pin or chain by securing it with a tie of some sort so that it can't turn on its own.

The Fly Loft refers to the large open area above the stage where curtains and flown scenery are stored when "flown out" or "gridded."
The Gridiron, or Grid, is above the fly loft, and this is where the pulleys for the fly system, as well as the area for temporary rigging, is located.

Pulleys can also be called Blocks or Sheaves. In a fly system, there are Head Blocks above the arbor, and Loft Blocks that run each Lift Line that the batten is hung from.
Pulleys can be Overhung, sitting on top of the grid, or Underhung, hanging down from the grid.
A Spot-Line is a special block put at a specific point of the grid to run a rope for a pick in that location.
A Double- Purchase system uses an extra set of blocks so that the arbor has half the distance to travel. This requires twice as much counter-weight, but allows for doorways and docks to take up space on a stage wall that houses a fly system.



A traveler curtain, also called draw curtain, bi-parting curtain, or just traveler, is the most common type of front curtain used in theaters. Traveler curtains can remain at a fixed elevation and open and close horizontally, break up and meet in the middle, and consequently require a minimum of fly space. Travelers can also fly.

Traveler curtains may be rigged with or without an operating line. When rigged with an operating line, they may be motorized or operated manually. They are referred to as walk-draw or walk-along curtains when rigged without an operating line. When opened and closed manually with an operating line, they are called manual curtains.

When a grand curtain is operated by traveling during the show, it Opens or Closes. When it is operated by the fly system it is called a Guillotine.

Fly Systems: Text

Proper Flying Procedures

Safety First!

Safety starts with communication!

--Instructions for the flyman should only come from department heads.

  1. First the flyman will announce loudly the pipe that is coming in. Then he will notify anyone on the grid or weight-rail where the pipe is that is going to move.

  2. The flyman unlocks the rope.

  3. The flyman brings the pipe from the fly loft to its furthest in point. This brings the arbor to its highest point for the hands on the weight-rail.

  4. The flyman sets the lock for the lineset, and then adds a "buddy bar" to the ropes to avoid slippage.

  5. The load that needs to fly is attached to the batten first. By always ensuring that the most weight in the system is at the lowest point, a flyman can avoid accidents due to unequal weight.

  6. Once the batten is fully loaded, the flyman tells the weight-rail to load the proper amount of stage-weight to the arbor.

  7. When the flyman is sure that all weight is accounted for, he carefully removes the buddy-bar to check for balance. If there is no slippage, then he/she carefully removes the lock to fly the piece.

    • If a set-piece or soft-good is loaded but a substantial amount of its weight is still on the floor, then the arbor is fully loaded, and the flyman uses the buddy-bar to ease the batten out until the weight is in balance

  8. The head carpenter will then have flyman set Trims by putting the piece at varying heights, and marking the ropes with spike tape so that the desired heights can be achieved again in the show. Typically there will at least be an IN trim and an OUT trim. There may also be one or many MID trims.

  9. On a load-out, the process is reversed. When flying in pieces or curtains that will pile of the floor, the weight of the arbor will outweigh the batten. At this point, the flyman may ask the weight-rail or floor crew to "give a rub" or help pull the rope with them. Once the piece is flown all the way in, the flyman will tell the weight-rail to take the lineset to pipe-weight. Pipe-weight refers to the arbor containing only the weight necessary to hold the batten itself. The flyman will once again ensure that the arbor is clear of weight before the hands start to remove weight from the batten, so that the over-weight is always at the low point.

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stage weight.jpg

Notes For The Weight Rail



  • Clear your pockets and anything else that could fall before you go to an area where you could be working overhead.

  • On most weight rails (including the Peoria Civic Center) there should always be at least two people. One person carrying weights and handing them to the second person loading the arbor.

  • Call out before you begin loading and call when you are finished.

  • Lift with your legs and arms and don't jerk your back.

  • Make sure the other person has the brick before you let go of it.

  • Be sure to note the safety railings and any necessary safety procedures for the specific rail.

  • Be sure to note the weights of each type of brick on that rail; they vary.

    • At the PCC, the weights are 15 and 30 lbs.

    • At the BCPA, the weights are 11, 22, and 43 lbs.

    • There is a diagram at both of these weight rails that tells you the math for the number of bricks; find it.

  • Spreader Plates are there to keep the arbor from splitting apart and spilling bricks down on the flyman's head. Use them at the proper intervals indicated for your theater.

    • At the BCPA, there are markings on the arbor to indicate.

    • At the PCC, spreader plates should be used every ten bricks.

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