We are saddened to hear of yet another twin engine training airplane being involved in a spin mishap, apparently due to a VMCA demonstration gone awry. The latest mishap was on December 4, 2023. During this incident the instructor (we presume) made radio calls to ATC declaring a “mayday” and he said he was “in a spin”. This leads us to believe the instructor did not know what to do at that point.
Flying the airplane is the only thing that matters at this point. ATC has no way of helping an aircraft out of control. We wonder about the instructors’ level of spin training. Unfortunately, the national average for a CFI spin endorsement is little to no ground instruction and approximately 2 spin recoveries from each direction. We at SAW query our customers who have come to us already having a spin endorsement, and the answers have overwhelmingly been in line with this average. Isn’t it odd that one can get a spin endorsement after one short flight, with minimal training? What other maneuver does a pilot do one time, and then the instructor says, “your good, here is your endorsement”? The answer of course, is none. So why does anyone allow this for the most complicated maneuver of them all?!
We implore all instructors and instructor candidates to get spin instruction from knowledgeable and highly competent spin instructors, preferably in an aerobatic airplane. This training must include a significant amount of study and ground instruction, and a minimum of 2 spin flights with many spin entries and recoveries. We have found this to make a dramatic improvement in pilot abilities regarding spins.
One of the goals of spin training is to make pilots spin resistant. Having a proper understanding of spins coupled with spin experience makes a pilot much less likely to enter inadvertent spins. Additionally, multi-engine instructors need to understand the risks involved with the VMCA demonstration and any type-specific issues. The risks need to be thoroughly understood and highly respected, so loss of control does not become an issue. Understanding that at the first sign of loss of control, one must IMMEDIATELY recover, with authority. Quickly pushing on the yoke/stick to unload the wings, apply up to full opposite rudder (situational dependent) and reduce power to idle will keep the airplane from spinning by ensuring there is no stall and stopping the yaw. This, of course, must all be done in compliance with the manufacturers’ recommended recovery procedures. A technique for the VMCA demo is for the instructor to block some of the rudder travel so that the airplane will lose directional control before stalling. This adds a higher level of safety by allowing the airplane to encounter yaw before stalling. As soon as the airplane starts to yaw beyond control, recovery is initiated. Reminder, stall AND yaw are the required conditions for a spin.
Another issue we have seen with pilots is not applying recovery controls quickly enough with the appropriate amount of control deflections. As previously stated, recover IMMEDIATELY and with smooth, but forceful inputs to prevent (preferably) or stop a spin. Instructors MUST ensure their students do not wait too long to initiate recovery. Again, this is where proper training comes in.
All flight schools should have a spin Subject Matter Expert (SME) to ensure that, at a minimum, all instructors and instructor candidates receive proper and thorough spin instruction. This is useful for a variety of reasons. I will refer to an article I wrote that was published in the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) magazine. We at SAW are ready to help. If we can provide training, guidance on setting up an effective spin training course, or other, please contact us.
By Mike “Cuckoo” Kloch