This page discusses the following topics:
- Types of Spin Training
- Aerobatic Spin Training
- General Aviation Spin Training
- Definitions of Key Terms
Much of often impassioned debate about the value of and need for spin training in the typical general aviation curriculum stems from confusion about what the term "spin training" means and when—and if—stall/spin training is required.
It's important to understand that the phrase "spin training" blurs an important distinction between the types of instruction available and confuses many pilots who seek out stall/spin/upset training.
One type of spin training is for aspiring or active aerobatic or test pilots who need to fly through and experience the complete range of spins, including fully developed, multiple-turn upright, inverted, and aggravated spins.
This type of training typically includes a thorough review of basic aerobatics and practice recovering from botched maneuvers.
Another, more general, type of spin training is for average GA pilots who fly typical GA airplanes and who want to develop a deeper understanding of stalls and related phenomena. These pilots have learned and practiced the stall "tasks" that they must demonstrate on on FAA practical tests, flight reviews, aircraft checkouts, and other recurrent training. They probably have little experience, however, with accelerated stalls, cross-control stalls, and incipient or developed spins. And as Rich Stowell points out in The Light Airplane Pilot’s Guide to Stall/Spin Awareness, the artificial stalls in the various Practical Test Standards often mislead pilots who later encounter unexpected departures from controlled flight.
It's also important to understand that most so-called stall/spin accidents don't involve fully developed, stable spins. The accident sequence in these events typically begins at low altitude—often in the traffic pattern—and the height above ground and elapsed time from departure to impact don't allow a true spin to develop.
So, the purpose of GA spin training isn't to teach pilots how to do spins, or even to spend the majority of the time in the air performing a series of developed, stable spins with recoveries to specified headings. Instead, the goals of such training (which includes extensive pre- and post-flight discussions on the ground), are to:
- Explore stall/spin phenomena in an appropriate aircraft.
- Expose pilots to the sights and sensations associated with a variety of situations that they might encounter regardless of the type of aircraft flown.
- Most importantly, give folks a chance to practice and really understand the traps pilots get into and how to avoid and recover from potentially dangerous situations before things get out of hand.
An effective general-aviation stall/spin course focuses on all types of stalls, including coordinated, unaccelerated, and accelerated stalls; stalls from slips and skids; and sustained stalls (a.k.a. "the falling leaf"). As noted in the Airplane Flying Handbook (Chapter 4, "Slow Flight, Stalls, and Spins"), some of this training can be conducted in any typical normal-category training aircraft.
But to explore the edges of the stall envelope and to see how stalls can depart into incipient and fully developed spins, it's necessary to use an aerobatic aircraft. An aerobatic aircraft provides an appropriate training platform to explore unusual attitudes associated with upsets and to experience developed spins and see the effects of adding power, making inappropriate control inputs, and so forth.
The ultimate goal of such GA stall/spin training is to instill in pilots the concept of abort points—defining moments during the execution of a flight operation where the pilot makes the decision to shift from the normal flight mode into the unusual attitude recovery flight mode, complete with a set of actions specifically tailored to address the situation.
Of course, a pilot's personal operating envelope and abort points change over time. As pilots receive more training and gain experience, their personal envelopes expand; conversely, proficiency dulled by a lack of recent experience or unfamiliarity with a new type of aircraft shrinks that envelope.
But the concept of establishing, recognizing, and reacting to abort points remains the same. And once an abort point is reached, it's time to move to unusual attitude recovery. The same principle should also apply even in the case of an intentional maneuver that is being terminated ahead of schedule. For example, regardless of the reason for aborting an intentional spin, the pilot at that moment should treat the spin as if it were unintentional. The complete unusual attitude spin recovery response should performed to ensure that nothing is missed en route to recovery.
Perhaps the most familiar example of a shift from one flight mode into another is the go-around, where the pilot (for whatever reason) aborts a landing approach and starts the go-around sequence.
- Normal Flight Mode refers to a typical manipulation of the controls that results in the intended outcome of a flight operation, where the performance of that flight operation can be measured against a set of standards.
- Aerobatics (FAR §91.303): For the purposes of this section, aerobatic flight means an intentional maneuver involving an abrupt change in an aircraft's attitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal acceleration, not necessary for normal flight.
- Inadvertent Stall: An unintentional departure from controlled flight during which the airplane exceeds the wing's stall angle of attack, resulting in the turbulent separation of otherwise smooth airflow across part or all of the wing.
- Spin: An aggravated stall wherein the airplane follows a downward corkscrew path. As the airplane rotates around the vertical axis, the rising wing is less stalled than the descending wing creating a rolling, yawing, and pitching motion.
- Inadvertent Spin: An unintentional departure from controlled flight that involves simultaneously stalling and yawing, and that involves a change in bank angle of 60 degrees or a change in heading greater than 30 degrees with an accompanying rate of change in bank angle or heading of at least 90 degrees per second. An intentional spin evolves into an unintentional spin the moment the pilot becomes disoriented, or the moment the pilot's mind becomes disengaged from the physical actions taken by the pilot's body, or the moment the pilot decides to abort the spin attempt, or the moment the spin proceeds beyond the point the pilot had intended.
- Airplane Upset: A departure from the intended flight profile that may or may not involve stalled flight, and that typically involves an excessive angle of bank, an excessive angle of pitch, or both, but that does not involve spinning.
- Unusual Attitude: An umbrella phrase that includes, among other things, the unintended attitude that can follow an encounter with an inadvertent stall or spin, wake turbulence, or an uncommanded spiral. Unusual attitudes can arise as a result of pilot and airplane interface issues, inappropriate control inputs, or environmental factors.
- Loss of Control: Refers to airplane accidents that result from situations in which the pilot should have maintained or regained aircraft control but did not.
- LOC-I refers to loss of control-in flight
- LOC-G refers to loss of control-ground.