Tailspin - Entry and Recovery

Entry and Recovery

Some aircraft cannot be recovered from a spin using only their own flight control surfaces and must not be allowed to enter a spin under any circumstances. If an aircraft has not been certified for spin recovery, it should be assumed that spins are not recoverable and are unsafe in that aircraft. Important safety equipment, such as stall/spin recovery parachutes, which generally are not installed on production aircraft, are used during testing and certification of aircraft for spins and spin recovery.

Spin-entry procedures vary with the type and model of aircraft being flown but there are general procedures applicable to most aircraft. These include reducing power to idle and simultaneously raising the nose in order to induce an upright stall. Then, as the aircraft approaches stall, apply full rudder in the desired spin direction while holding full back-elevator pressure for an upright spin. Sometimes a roll input is applied in the direction opposite of the rudder (i.e., a cross-control).

If the aircraft manufacturer provides a specific procedure for spin recovery, that procedure must be used. Otherwise, to recover from an upright spin, the following generic procedure may be used: Power is first reduced to idle and the ailerons are neutralized. Then, full opposite rudder (that is, against the yaw) is added and held to counteract the spin rotation, and the elevator control is moved briskly forward to reduce the angle of attack below the critical angle. Depending on the airplane and the type of spin, the elevator action could be a minimal input before rotation ceases, or in other cases the elevator control may have to be moved to its full forward position to effect recovery from the upright spin. Once the rotation has stopped, the rudder must be neutralized and the airplane returned to level flight. This procedure is sometimes called PARE, for Power idle, Ailerons neutral, Rudder opposite the spin and held, and Elevator through neutral. The mnemonic "PARE" simply reinforces the tried-and-true NASA standard spin recovery actions—the very same actions first prescribed by NACA in 1936, verified by NASA during an intensive, decade-long spin test program overlapping the 1970s and '80's, and repeatedly recommended by the FAA and implemented by the majority of test pilots during certification spin-testing of light airplanes.

Inverted spinning and erect or upright spinning are dynamically very similar and require essentially the same recovery process but use opposite elevator control. In an upright spin both roll and yaw are in the same direction but that an inverted spin is composed of opposing roll and yaw. It is crucial that the yaw be countered to effect recovery. The visual field in a typical spin (as opposed to a flat spin) is heavily dominated by the perception of roll over yaw, which can lead to an incorrect and dangerous conclusion that a given inverted spin is actually an erect spin in the reverse yaw direction (leading to a recovery attempt in which pro-spin rudder is mistakenly applied and then further exacerbated by holding the incorrect elevator input).

In some aircraft that spin readily upright and inverted—such as Pitts- and Christen Eagle-type high-performance aerobatic aircraft—an alternative spin-recovery technique may effect recovery as well, namely: Power off, Hands off the stick/yoke, Rudder full opposite to the spin (or more simply "push the rudder pedal that is hardest to push") and held (aka the Mueller/Beggs technique). An advantage of the Mueller/Beggs technique is that no knowledge of whether the spin is erect or inverted is required during what can be a very stressful and disorienting time. Even though this method does work in a specific subset of spin-approved airplanes, the NASA Standard/PARE procedure can also be effective provided that care must be taken to ensure the spin does not simply cross from positive to negative (or vice versa) and that a too-rapid application of elevator control is avoided as it may cause aerodynamic blanketing of the rudder rendering the control ineffective and simply accelerate the spin. The converse, however, may not be true at all—many cases exist where Beggs/Mueller fails to recover the airplane from the spin, but NASA Standard/PARE will terminate the spin. Before spinning any aircraft the flight manual should be consulted to establish if the particular type has any specific spin recovery techniques that differ from standard practice.

Although entry techniques are similar, modern military fighter aircraft often tend to require yet another variation on spin recovery techniques. While power is still typically reduced to idle thrust and pitch control neutralized, opposite rudder is almost never used. Adverse yaw created by the rolling surfaces (ailerons, differential horizontal tails, etc.) of such aircraft is often more effective in arresting the spin rotation than the rudder(s), which usually become blanked by the wing and fuselage due to the geometric arrangement of fighters. Hence, the preferred recover technique has a pilot applying full roll control in the direction of the rotation (i.e., a right-hand spin requires a right stick input), generally remembered as "stick into the spin." Likewise, this control application is reversed for inverted spins.

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