Friday, July 06, 2018

Thanks the Memories

A friend posted a picture of a single engine airplane doing an extreme climb on Facebook.  I commented that the real fun was the spin at the top.  

My father was a private pilot, he had commercial and instrument licenses, but he never flew for money, just for the love of flying.  He wanted an instructors certificate, and never finished it.  He came close and made a silly mistake (tuned the communications radio to the wrong frequency) and never left the ground on the exam ride, and gave up.  I wish he had tried again, he really loved flying and he would have shared that love with a new generation of pilots.  

While he was working on the instructors rating, he decided he should brush up on basic acrobatics.  When he learned to fly in the 1950's, the basics were required skills.  He spent an hour with an instructor and then went out for some practice and I went with him.  

We did stalls and spins. As I recall it was a Cessna 172, a comfortable four place single engine (might have been a 150.) To stall the airplane, you get it to a point where it is not producing enough lift to fly.  You do this either by sheer force of will, pulling back into a steep climb until it does not have enough horsepower to continue, or by throttling back and pulling back.  To recover, lower the nose and add power. Stalls are a piece of cake. 

To spin, when the plane stalls, you kick in full rudder in one direction or the other, while holding the plane in the stall (pulling back on the controls), the plane gently rolls over upside down, turns nose down and start to spins downward toward the ground.  The longer it spins, the faster it goes.  Generally you let it go three rotations and then kick in full rudder in the opposite direction of the spin, as it stops spinning add throttle and away you go.  We did this for a couple of hours one gentle sunny January afternoon above central Florida.  Because he was working on an instructors rating, he did the first one, and I did the next 10.  It is surprisingly gentle, in fact my reaction was, "is that all there is to it?"  One of the reason that they teach spins and recovery, is to get you to realize that this is a life threatening condition and if you don't fix it, you will spiral faster and faster until you have an uncontrolled impact with terrain.  In other words crash and burn.  

We didn't do loops, the aircraft we were flying were really not built for that.  We didn't fly upside down (for more than a couple of seconds) as the engines didn't have pressurized oil systems and once centrifugal force subsided major engine damage would ensue (we had a friend with a plane that was built to be able to fly inverted (upside down) for as long as the pilot could stand the strain - as I recall he bragged about flying upside down most of the way home to his farm field one afternoon.   

I have very fond memories, of doing things very few people will ever do.  

Thanks for the memories! 

Would you do a spin with a pilot you trusted? 


  1. Yeah, I'd do a spin with a good pilot.

    But from the photo, how can you tell that plane is in an extreme climb?



  2. Andy - the plane in the picture above, is "straight and level", not the picture a friend posted on Facebook. I try to use pictures I have taken (with rare exceptions.) I didn't have an image of a plane doing anything unusual.