Day 21: Lesson 28 – Incipient Spins and Steep Turns

Date: 01/04/2011

Hours flown Dual Command Instruments
This flight 1.10 0.00 0.00
Total to date 26.54 1.40 1.20

Today was busy as hell. I had 3 flights, this one and two following which I’ll describe in my next post. With a total of 3.0 hours flying time today, I’m knackered. But enthused!

We’ve meant to get a lesson on Incipient Spins out of the way for a while, and we needed to get it done before I could do my first area solo. (When I did my Advanced Stalls lesson with Ashley, we covered a variety of stall situations but not recovering from incipient spins). Ditto for Steep Turns. So we covered these two elements in my first hour of training today.

After NFR and UFY both pulled up in maintenance, we managed to secure SFK for my flying today. Weather was cloudy but perfectly flyable, so we headed out into the training area (more good practise for me in departure and radio procedures, CTA steps and recognising training area landmarks) and got stuck into it.

Incipient Spins

Basically, an incipient spin is a condition that precedes a full spin. In most training aircraft it’s not a situation you want to get remotely near, but it can happen and you need to know how to recover from it. Most likely scenario is that you’ve got the aircraft into a stall (intentionally or unintentionally) and then a wing drops and stalls. You are then in a situation where the aircraft enters a spin in the direction of the stalled wing, and while your airspeed may be quite low (at least initially) your rate of descent increases rapidly and you lose height quickly.

Most training aircraft, including the Piper Warrior, are not actually able or rated to do spins – this is usually reserved for aerobatic aircraft – but you can practise recovery from the incipient spin. After reaching 3500 feet and doing our HASELL checks (more on this back in my initial Stalls lesson post), John stalled the aircraft and somehow got a wing to drop, and we were in an incipient spin.

This is not a fun manoeuvre. AT ALL. I swear the aircraft was banked at least 80 degrees if not 90, it certainly felt as though the dropped wing was pointing straight down at the ground. Do not try this at home.

Anyway, the critical aspect to recovering from this situation is to first level the wings, but as the dropped wing is stalled, you must not level the wings with ailerons as, with a wing already stalled, this can only make the situation worse. The correct response is to apply firm and full opposite rudder, which yaws the aircraft in the opposite direction but then as a secondary effect also induces the aircraft to roll in the direction of yaw, that is, opposite to the direction of the dropped wing. Once wings are level, feet off the pedals, raise the nose (not too rapidly) and once the nose is above the horizon, apply full power and climb away.

And it works. We did it 2 or 3 times with John in control and me following through on his movements, then he induced 2 incipient spins and had me recover from them by myself.

It was not fun. Interesting, yes. Challenging, yes. But not fun. My heart was thumping the entire time. But, I learned how to recover from an incipient spin and am now armed with the knowledge to get myself out of one should I ever f**k up enough to get into one.

Steep Turns

Incipient spins out of the way, we turned our attention to steep turns. Generally speaking, these are turns of more than 30 degrees angle of bank, and are usually used in emergency situations where you need to turn left or right in a hurry (eg in a traffic avoidance situation).

The thing about a steep turn is that much of the lift generated by the wings is directed sideways in the direction of the turn, rather than upwards, so you need to maintain a great deal of back pressure on the control column to maintain height in the turn. Additionally, so much additional weight is placed on the wings that the stall speed increases significantly, and to compensate for that you need to use full power once you bank beyond 30 degrees.

So, basically, roll into the turn, when at 30 degrees angle of bank apply full throttle and maintain firm back pressure on the control column to maintain height. If you start gaining height, release a little back pressure. If you start losing height, lesson the angle of bank, apply enough back pressure to recover desired height, and then steepen the turn again. All the while, keep a steady watch on the horizon outside relative to the aircraft’s nose – if you pick the right attitude and hold it, constantly checking your aircraft’s attitude and performance and then looking back out at the horizon, it’s easier to maintain height in the turn than if you chase your instruments.

When you want to roll out of the turn, start to roll out about 10 degrees ahead of your intended heading, and throttle back to cruise power once you pass 30 degrees angle of bank to wings level.

One possible outcome of a steep turn “gone wrong” is that it develops into a spiral dive. These are also not good news. However, like an incipient spin, you can get out of them – the trick is knowing how.

Unlike an incipient spin, in the spiral dive the wings are not stalled. So, correct procedure is to close the throttle (that is, cut power), level the wings with the ailerons, then as with an incipient spin, pull the nose up (not too sharply) out of the dive and then once nose is above the horizon, apply full throttle and climb away.

On the way back, John did the instructor trick and pulled an engine failure simulation on me without warning. Like an idiot, I dithered for 30 seconds before responding and going through my forced landing procedures. We ended up doing it twice before heading back, but I lost my cool a bit both times. I learned two very important things for the exams and future lessons though.

Insight #26

If an instructor pulls an engine failure simulation on you, don’t f**k around asking him or her if this is a real simulation. Recognise it as an engine failure and deal with it as you were taught. Your success in your flying tests depends on it, as could your survival in a real engine failure situation.

And …

Insight #27

As part of your first response to the engine failure, put carby heat on, check fuel mixture is on full rich, check fuel pump is on, and change fuel tanks. You can do diagnostics and troubleshooting later (if time allows), these are the things you should do every time to see whether any of them restarts the engine.

A few left and right steep turns, then we were back to the aerodrome, reporting in at Prospect Reservoir and making a landing on 11L. Not my best landing – I flared too high – but competent enough, and we were back in once piece. A busy lesson completed.

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2 responses to “Day 21: Lesson 28 – Incipient Spins and Steep Turns

  1. Pingback: Day 21: Lessons 29 and 30 – Pre-Area Solo Checkride and First Area Solo « MidLifePilot's Flying Blog

  2. Pingback: Day 22 – Lessons 31 and 32 – Precautionary Search and Landing / 2nd Training Area Solo « MidLifePilot's Flying Blog

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