A Spin 'Virgin' No More! :0)


August 25th, 2005

Well as most of you know by now, my Commercial checkride is on hold while we wait for my FBO's only complex aircraft to get it's replacement engine.

So, last week (when my checkride had to be cancelled due to the Arrow III going off-line), I asked my CFII if we could work on some of the CFI training. More specifically, I asked him if we could start with working on the spin endorsement.

Today was the day! We started with some ground instruction regarding spins, which included me explaining the mechanics of a spin and being questioned on what were the specific caveats related to the aircraft we were using (a Cessna 152). My initial 'explanations' missed the mark initially (that is being plain enough to serve as an apt explanation to a student who had no understanding of spins), but with my CFII's help I was able to 'rein-in' my explanation so that it was more clear and concise. We did the weight and balance calculations to make sure that we would be well within the W & B 'envelope' and we were.

After our ground instruction session together it was time! I told John that I had only one 'disclaimer', that being - I had never done this before and wasn't sure how I'd 'be'. Though I went on to say that my level of curiosity had easily grown to a level that easily out measured any fear/concerns I may have about spins. John, told me that often he had heard from his students that the actual spin was far less ominous/frightening than their (i.e., the students) imaginings were. I told my CFI that may very well be and the 'proof would be in the pudding' so-to-speak; that is after I had my first spins.

Took off from Reid-Hillview and headed out to the practice area. John had me climb to 5,000 feet and then perform some clearing turns. As he mentioned to me earlier, he reminded me that he would demonstrate the first one (with my hands and feet on the controls - following with him) and then the second spin, I would do the entry and recovery with him verbally coaching as necessary.

Here it goes! John reduces the power to idle and just as the plane begins to stall he steps on the rudder in the direction he wanted to begin the spin (he picked my side to start with). I was amazed how the 152 responded by immediately entering the incipient spin and then 'full' spin. I have to tell you, the first spin was not 'scary' (and this is not male bravado speaking, at all) rather it was first just a matter of getting my brain to 'comprehend' all the new 'visual inputs' it was getting. The earth was turning below in my windscreen, I was in a spin. Then John smoothly applied opposite rudder (the rotation stopped) and released the back pressure on the yoke and we were now in a steep dive which he carefully pulled us out of.

I must say that the worst part (at least for me) of the maneuver are the 2 to 2.5 G's you pull when coming out of the dive. My head and the stomach did not enjoy that part, but once we were back to straight and level and 'normal weight' <g> I felt a bit better. Though I did feel a bit 'heady' (NOT dizzy) more just that my inner ear had been put though a good workout (specifically the semicircular canals). I remember experiencing something similar during recovery from unusual attitudes practice from my other pilot training.

I told my instructor that the spins weren't anywhere what I had imagined them to be like. I told him too that I felt a little bit heady, but that I wasn't going to lose any lunch yet, but I would keep him apprised of my status as we went through the maneuver.

So, now it was my turn. I (though it wasn't necessary) told my instructor that he might want to follow me through on the controls just in case I had an unexpected reaction resulting in an incorrect control input. John told me that if he needed the plane he would say 'my plane' and I would turn it over to him if necessary; though he went on to say that he really didn't think I was going to have a problem.

I did some more clearing turns. Brought the power to idle, kept raising the nose until the wing stalled and then stepped down on the left rudder - over we went - incipient spin to one full spin and recovery. I was impressed with myself. Not really a trace of hesitating to enter the maneuver nor delay in recovery - after all, I had never done this before; just read about spins endlessly <g>.

Head and tummy doing 'decently'. Surprisingly, I was not having any ill feelings about the spin itself, rather it was that g-pull at the bottom that my physiology didn't care for in the slightest.

I gave my 'head & tummy' status report to John; all seemed to be okay, for the most part. So John said he would demonstrate (with me following through on the controls) an incipient spin, followed by 2 full spins. After he performed them he had me do the same. At this point I was already to do the spin,,, actually (except for the head-tummy issues) I was eager to do another spin, myself. So, in I went,,, recovered and of course; yuck that g-sensation thing.

I told John that I could probably do another but that should probably be 'it' for the day as far as what my head and stomach would likely tolerate (I was just being safe, 'cause I haven't gotten sick in a plane yet and I would like to keep my 'perfect record' <grin>). John said that would be just fine and that he would end our session demonstrating (with me following through) a 3 turn spin with recovery. At this point my brain was becoming quite accustomed to the visual input and I was actually 'casually' (in a manner of speaking <g>) counting each full turn and then recovery..... We timed the session quite well as I was stopping just at the point where there would be no 'point-of-no-return' as far as nausea might go.

Headed back to RHV, landed in the slight crosswind (still got to confess that the heady-nausea thing hadn't left me yet) and we tied down the plane and debriefed. I thanked my instructor for making it such a positive experience (after all, I liked the spins,,, wasn't his fault my nausea 'threshold's needing a little more exposure).

I drove home, but not before stopping at a local supermarket to pick up a bottle of ginger ale and some pretzels. Like I told my instructor there was no way I was going to eat a hamburger right now. So, I sipped on the ginger ale and carefully nibbled at the pretzels, since it was all I could safely get into me at the time.

Now it is almost 7:40PM and it wasn't 'till about 40 minutes ago that I started to feel 'normal' again (finished my flight lesson at 3PM).

Well, I did it! My first spins!!! They weren't the visual 'dragons' that I had imagined them to be and by the 3rd one I was actually kind of enjoying them (though I was clearly not enjoying the mild motion sickness issues on the g-pullout). Regarding the motion sickness issue, I'm not too concerned. As I've learned from the past; it is just a matter of exposure.


Thanks for lending an ear/eye! :0)

Below graphic designed by: Jeff Bucchino,
"The Wizard of Draws" (copyright owner) http://www.wizardofdraws.com

Good Flights!

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