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Stall/Spin/Upset Training

This page discusses the following topics:

Types of Spin Training

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.

FAR §61.97(b)(10), §61.105(b)(10), and §61.183(i)(1) require ground instruction in stall/spin awareness for pilots (and flight training for instructors) who seek airplane or glider category ratings.

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.

Aerobatic Spin Training

ExtraInvertedOne 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.

General Aviation Stall/Spin Training

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.

PTS Stall

OvershootIt'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.

Base-Final TurnSo, 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:

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.

Inverted 45But 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.

C182

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.

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