Tuesday, July 14, 2009
You Spin Me Round!
Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety takes the unusual out of unusual attitudes
“Because many flight schools emphasize stall avoidance rather than control, certain myths are passed down to new pilots,” gripes Freelove. Tutima’s course aims to dispel these untruths by desensitizing students to the idea that a stall is scary. One common myth is that when a wing stalls, it “stops flying” and the pilot will lose control of the airplane. “We teach students to fly in a stall,” insists Freelove. Another myth is that if you get too slow, you’ll stall. “Pulling too far back on the elevator is what really causes a stall. This can happen at any attitude and any airspeed.”
Common stall-spin scenarios include a severely skidding turn close to the ground (such as a correction to an overshoot during a base-to-final turn), a high-density altitude takeoff and an approach-to-land during engine failure (when the pilot pulls back in an attempt to extend the glide). “You’re programmed to pull back,” says Freelove. “Most loss-of-control accidents are really caused by a pilot panicking and pulling back on the controls. If your brain senses a survival situation (such as fear or panic), you may not have control over your behavior and you’ll revert to whatever basic level of training you have. If you don’t have any, you’ll most likely pull all the way back on the elevator, subconsciously believing it’ll make the airplane go up! It’s easy to reprogram this instinct, and our course does just that.”
We practice power-off stalls, power-on stalls, accelerated stalls, stalls in a turn and the various phases of spins: entry, incipient, developed and recovery. To recover from a spin in the Pitts there are just a few short steps: Pull the power back to idle, look straight over the nose of the airplane and put in full rudder opposite to the rotation of the spin, and neutralize the stick so that there’s no aileron or elevator in the equation. When the rotation stops, neutralize the rudder, pull out of the dive and add power.
The first few spins are a bit disorienting, but after awhile they become quite manageable, and even enjoyable! “It’s surprising how quickly students go from white knuckles and being terrified to being worried about stopping the spin on their desired heading,” says Bill Stein, a professional air show pilot and guest instructor at Tutima.
Freelove and I work on headings and altitudes, and play with tightening and loosening upright spins with forward and back elevator. We practice inverted spins, which have the same recovery, and he shows me how adding power and aileron flattens the spin.
I Skid You Not
Another enlightening part of the training is when Freelove demonstrates the real difference between a skid and a slip in the Pitts. If you’re skidding in a turn while loading up the airplane enough to stall it, you’ll basically snap-roll and find yourself upside-down and entering a spin. This is a classic mistake pilots might make when overshooting a base-to-final turn close to the ground. “A skid is always too much rudder to the ground. This is bad,” explains Freelove. “A slip is rudder to the sky. This is okay.”
Beating Up the Box
Aerobatics is all about fully utilizing the airplane in three dimensions and making everything work relative to the horizon. Wingovers are graceful figures that are fun to fly and get you in tune with the airplane. “Wingovers teach students that they can fly an airplane knife-edge at stall speed and not fall out of the sky,” says Stein.
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