You do know how to recover from a spin, don't you?
From the private pilot level, pilots are trained to recite the spin recovery procedures. Usually it sounds like rote memorization of the text in the Pilots Operating Handbook for the aircraft they are going to take their check ride in.
Does this sound familiar?
- RETARD THROTTLE TO IDLE POSITION.
- PLACE AILERONS IN NEUTRAL POSITION.
- APPLY AND HOLD FULL RUDDER OPPOSITE TO THE DIRECTION OF ROTATION.
- JUST AFTER THE RUDDER REACHES THE STOP, MOVE THE CONTROL WHEEL BRISKLY FORWARD FAR ENOUGH TO BREAK THE STALL. Full down elevator may be required at aft center of gravity loadings to assure optimum recoveries.
- HOLD THESE CONTROL INPUTS UNTIL ROTATION STOPS. Premature relaxation of the control inputs may extend the recovery.
- AS ROTATION STOPS, NEUTRALIZE RUDDER, AND MAKE A SMOOTH RECOVERY FROM THE RESULTING DIVE.
That is taken directly from the Cessna 172 POH, an airplane many pilots learned to fly in. This is the approved recovery method for the 172, and should be used if the pilot finds themselves in an inadvertent spin in a 172. But it's complicated. No, it's not difficult, but without a a handful of practice attempts this 6 step procedure could easily be done wrong.
Pop quiz time. Without looking, do the controls need to be moved briskly forward after the rudder is fully deflected or after the rotation stops? Now imagine yourself in an airplane that should be straight and level on downwind, but it's not straight and level. The world is spinning around you and the only thing you can see out the front window is the earth swirling below you. Are you sure you got it right?
There are other recovery methods, some are general, others are designed for one aircraft and have been found to work in many others. Lets look at some of the well known recovery procedures.
Easily one of the most widely accepted spin recovery method. It was developed by Rich Stowell and introduced in his book PARE- The Emergency Spin Recovery Procedure. It has since been adopted by NASA, the FAA and thousands of flight instructors as the best way to train spin recovery.
What is PARE? It's a simple acronym.
- Power- Idle
- Ailerons- Neutral
- Rudder- Opposite of the spin rotation
- Elevator- forward to break the stall
It works, and works very well on most aircraft. Although not all.
In 2001 Gene Beggs, a member of the Aerobatic Hall of Fame, wrote a book called Spins in the Pitts Special to address a problem he observed of many aerobatic pilots being the victims of spin accidents, particularly in the Pitts. in short, he found that pilot confusion and incorrect recovery procedures were the main cause of those accidents. He proposed, and tested, a fool-proof recovery procedure that works in a wide variety of situations, including inverted and flat spins. What is his method?
- Power to idle
- Let go of the stick- yup, just let it go
- Opposite rudder until rotation stops. Which rudder is not always easy to determine. The easiest way to verify is to try both rudders to compare their weight then step on the heavy rudder.
- Neutralize rudder and pull out of the dive After the rotation stops.
It's simple, but ultimately only tested and evaluated specifically for one aircraft. It works in other aircraft, but will it work in your aircraft? Maybe, maybe not. There are plenty of aircraft or spin profiles where it doesn't work. If it works, that's great! There is no easier procedure. If it doesn't work, it's entirely useless.
Bill Finagin, also an aerobatic pilot, sees a potential for problem with the traditional recovery techniques. If someone were to preform the procedure in the wrong order, such as pushing the stick forward before using opposite rudder, a pilot can enter an inverted spin where the recovery procedure is different. The vast majority of pilots and instructors have never discussed inverted spins. Being left to figure it out while unintentionally spiraling towards the earth is not the time or place to experiment.
The Finagin recovery, like the Beggs recovery is simple.
- Power idle
- Neutralize all controls
- When the airspeed increases to about 1.4 stall speed...
- Recover from the dive
Also a very simple procedure, but unfortunately it has limits. It works well in some aircraft such as the Pitts. It works in other aircraft too, but will it work in your aircraft? Maybe, maybe not. There are plenty of aircraft or spin profiles where it doesn't work. If it works, that's great! It's a very simple procedure. If it doesn't work, it's entirely useless.
With all these great and simple recoveries, why not just let go of the stick and if that doesn't work do a PARE recovery? The problem is spins are potentially dangerous. Some aircraft can't recover from spins and many can't recover from established spins in an acceptable amount of time. An incorrect recovery could cost you time that you just don't have.
It's worth mentioning that If your aircraft isn't approved for intentional spins, don't try them! In fact, don't hold the plane in a stall, or do falling leaf stalls in anything not certified for intentional spins. You could probably get away with it, and probably even be able to recover from an incipient spin, but the risk is entering an unrecoverable situation.
We looked at the C172 spin recovery above, which is very similar to a PARE recovery. Not all aircraft follow the same procedure.
Columbia 400/ Cessna TTx
- Power idle
- Rudder full against the spin
- Elevator full forward
- Aileron full against the spin.
Aileron against the spin is unique. Normally we are concerned with further increasing the angle of attack of a stalled wing and entering a roll in the opposite direction. In the 400, the cuffed wing provides protection against that.
- CAPS handle- Pull
Despite common internet wisdom, the parachute wasn't installed on a Cirrus due to their inability to meet spin certification. The airplane did meet european spin certification and likely could have met FAA spin certification. That does not mean it is easy to recover from a spin. Reports from test pilots Indicate the Cirrus can in fact recover from a spin, however that's not an official statement and should be viewed as nothing more than hangar stories
- Throttle- Closed
- Ailerons- Neutral
- Elevator- Positive forward to neutral ("free release of control is not adequate for recovery")
- Rudder- Full opposite
The Decathlon recovery is a rearranged PARE recovery with elevator being listed as before rudder, although elevator and rudder are often times applied simultaneously.
Knowing and practicing the correct procedure in your aircraft is important. If you regularly fly an aerobatic aircraft, spend some time with an instructor experienced in your make and model and try out some of the simplified methods in various types of spins to see what works and what doesn't. If you're flying an aircraft not certified for spins, you're not out of luck. You can practice the published recovery as often as you like in a simulator. The test pilots already verified the procedure works; all you need to do is become familiar with it and fly within safe margins so you never need it. .
The Correct Recovery Technique
Ultimately, the correct way to deal with an inadvertent spin is to avoid it all together. Are we saying don't bother with spin training because there is no good recovery method? Not at all! We are saying that spin recovery is not a simple "Do this and you'll be fine" kind of thing. It involves prevention and recovery along with an understanding of the limitations of different recovery techniques.
Prevention and recovery go hand-in-hand. Ideally we never want to find ourselves flying outside of a standardized flight profile with the exception of the training environment. Any time we find ourselves outside a normal speed range or bank angle, we should initiate a recovery to prevent going to the next step towards loss of control. We believe in the concept that you can prevent a spin by recovering from a stall. Prevent a stall by recovering from high AOA flight, and prevent high AOA flight by recovering from abnormal airspeeds or bank angles.