Spin Training

A lot of pilots are very nervous about stalls and spins. These are just aerodynamic states that an aircraft can encounter, not ones that are typical of routine flying.

Being exposed to these scenarios will give you the visual and aircraft cues of what’s happening. Being confident of entering and exiting a spin, gives pilots great confidence that they will be able to deal with any situation. Spin training is a confidence-builder. This is a great first hand story by Rick Durden as to why every pilot should undertake spin training.

Generally, spin training is undertaken in an “unusual attitude recovery course” or as a part of an aerobatics course. Although not required, understanding and being able to recover from spins is certainly a skill that a fixed-wing pilot should learn as a safety precaution

What does spin training cover?

Spin Entry and Incipient
Spin-entry procedures vary with the type and model of aircraft being flown but there are general procedures applicable to most aircraft. These include reducing power to idle and simultaneously raising the nose in order to induce an upright stall. Then, as the aircraft approaches stall, apply full rudder in the desired spin direction while holding full back-elevator pressure for an upright spin. Sometimes a roll input is applied in the direction opposite of the rudder (i.e., a cross-control).

Spin Development
For most aircraft, the first turn of a spin is the incipient stage. Usually two or more turns are required to have the spin fully developed. The use of power and or aileron can steepen or flatten the spin, depending on what is being trained.

  • Power – Idle. More power just pulls you the ground faster, so reduce it to idle.
  • Ailerons – Neutral. Remember that for a spin to occur the airplane has to be in an aggravated stall, where one wing is stalled more than the other. Going to neutral reduces that aggravation and reduces drag.
  • Rudder – FULL opposite the direction of the spin (left rudder for a right spin). The rudder still has effectiveness in a spin, because of the spiraling slipstream going across the tail. If you can’t determine the direction of spin, reference the miniature airplane on the turn coordinator.
  • Elevator – Forward to “break” the stall. Even when the airplane is in a nose down position, the wings are still stalled, meaning they’ve exceeded the critical angle of attack. You have to move the elevator forward to decrease that angle of attack.

Aspen’s Spin Training

Aspen Flying Club is currently home to two tailwheel aircraft, both produced by American Champion, which can be used for spin training. One is a 1977 Citabria, and the other a brand new 2013 Xtreme Decathlon. Spin training can be undertaken on its own, as part of a tailwheel endorsement, or even in conjunction with basic aerobatic training. The Xtreme Decathalon has a little more power than the Citabria and a symmetrical airfoil for inverted flight.