How to recover from an airplane spin, with Patty Wagstaff

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While spin training is only required for new flight instructor candidates, pilots of all skill levels should know the steps to recover from a spin. Join Patty Wagstaff in her Super Decathlon aerobatic airplane, as she explains how it’s possible to enter a spin, and then the proper recovery steps to return to straight and level flight, in this video segment from Sporty’s Basic Aerobatics Course.

Bret Koebbe
1 reply
  1. George Bachich says:

    Although this video ends with the full and correct spin recovery procedure, the in-plane demonstration and oral instructions for recovery given earlier in the video begin with step three, rudder against the spin. This risks perpetuating the long standing likelihood of a systematic error creeping into spin training.
    In a pinch, we do what we have trained to do, and if we have trained to begin the recovery by applying rudder opposite the spin, that is what we will do if something out of the ordinary and startling occurs, such as a spin going flat for unrecognized reasons. In fact, this abbreviated procedure is what nearly every pilot learns to do at muscle memory level because every practice spin is entered with throttle already at idle and with ailerons already neutral, so the first step in recovering from such a spin is actually abrupt application of full rudder opposite the spin (step three of the full spin recovery procedure).
    This works until it doesn’t. When a spin is eventually entered without getting the throttle all the way back, the spin will go flat and not be recoverable until the throttle is finally brought back to idle. The adrenaline rush resulting from a spin going immediately flat for unrecognized reasons is likely to cause the pilot to reflexively try to immediately stop the spin by doing what has worked a thousand previous times, i.e., abruptly applying full rudder opposite the spin. When the spin does not stop, as it certainly will not, at least in a Pitts, the pilot may panic and not realize until too late that he or she has skipped step one of the full spin recovery procedure.
    This video and all spin training should stress the importance of using a complete mental checklist of all five steps for every spin recovery, even if the first two steps are only physical and mental confirmations that they have been previously completed. Always starting with step three without mentally going through the normally unneeded first two steps is a potentially fatal systematic training error.
    I am not a flight instructor. I speak only from personal experience. I learned this lesson only after reviewing the sequence of events that occurred during an inverted spin practice session about thirty years ago. Although my inverted flat spin finally transitioned to a normal inverted spin and stopped because I eventually inadvertently pulled the throttle back to idle, I did not understand why it had stopped until about an hour later. As surely as terror is a great teacher, the danger lurking in systematic training errors is a lesson I will never forget.

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