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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spin Training

Holy Smokes! It's clearly been a while since I last posted, so this one is overdue. Couple months ago, a youngish (anyone one under 50 qualifies) fellow came to me wanting some spin training. Mike is a 30-hour student pilot, avidly working on getting Private Pilot credentials. I think it's a great idea, seeing and experiencing spin entry, exit, and working at some of the common pitfalls pilots gravitate towards that leads to trouble.

 Lesson 1 of my three-lesson spin training syllabus reviews some basic airmanship skills, e.g., "dutch rolls," slow flight, power off and on stalls, and then moves to those that are no longer required by the FAA for Private Pilot training: accelerated maneuver stalls. Also in this lesson we cover the "falling leaf" maneuver: A power off stall which is held, keeping the wings level with only rudder. Then it's on to one-turn, upright spins.

This is reviewed in lesson two, along with two-turn spins, and then on to the real-world business of scenario-based spins. This is where (sadly) the rubber meets the road (or field, or other terrain). The base-to-final turn is a serious gotcha, as even if one figures out what's going on, 500 feet or there abouts, is not enough altitude to exit the incipient spin. A good reason to practice this stuff at altitude, in a spin-approved airplane, and with yours truly. One has to really work at coupling yaw and roll and adding stall for the base-to-final faux pas, but it's often an eye-opener when properly (or improperly, depending on your perspective) executed. Mike and I also set up the "impossible turn," the nefarious departure leg, engine-out, gotta-get-this-thing back to airport scenario (at altitude), and for a low-time pilot, he did excellent! He "unloaded" the tail/elevator, got the nose down, and cranked the airplane around in a 45 degree (and maybe a wee bit more) banked turn, managing to line up on our imaginary runway centerline before busting the "hard deck."

The final lesson were reviews of upright one-, two-turn spins, and then into multi-turn spins(5 turns was the goal, but sometimes they went an additional one or two turns). The piece de resistance were inverted spins. We flew a half-loop (airspeed is slow at the top of this), then it's stick full forward, and kick fully rudder. Ideally these are recovered from in a single turn, maybe two. They're uncomfortable, your eyes feel like they're being forcibly pulled from their orbits, and the hand of nature is trying to remove you from your seat. Mike took a little too long to recover on these, and got his feet mixed up (he added opposite rudder, and little late, saw to recovery, then put pro-spin rudder in) and we went around a number of times--yeah, I lost count. After about three revolutions, the Decathon's inverted spin tends to flatten out and it becomes Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. I did call for control of the airplane, applied out-spin rudder, and that rascally airplane took it's time in the recovery (another two turns). Of course we did this up at 5,000' AGL, and we had much room to work with, recovering about 3,000'. I like to allow pilots some room for error; however this time, I may have allowed things to progress a little too far. So it was certainly a learning experience for Mike, and one for me, too.

Spin training is great stuff for all pilots. It might require you to screw your courage up a notch, but the experience will go a long way towards making you safer, more confident and knowledgeable, and a better aviator. See you at the airport!