Tailspin - How A Spin Occurs

How A Spin Occurs

Certificated, light, single-engine airplanes must meet specific criteria regarding stall and spin behavior. Many types of airplane will only spin if the pilot simultaneously yaws and stalls the airplane (intentionally or unintentionally). Under these circumstances, one wing tends to stall more deeply than the other. The wing that stalls first will drop, increasing its angle of attack and deepening the stall. Both wings must be stalled for a spin to occur. The other wing will rise, decreasing its angle of attack, and the aircraft will yaw towards the more deeply stalled wing. The difference in lift between the two wings causes the aircraft to roll, and the difference in drag causes the aircraft to yaw.

One common scenario that can lead to an unintentional spin is an uncoordinated turn towards the runway during the landing sequence. A pilot who is overshooting the turn to final approach may be tempted to apply rudder to increase the rate of turn. The result is twofold: the nose of the airplane drops below the horizon and the bank angle increases. Reacting to these unintended changes, the pilot may then begin to pull the elevator control aft (thus increasing the angle of attack) while applying opposite aileron to decrease bank angle. Taken to its extreme, this can result in an uncoordinated turn with sufficient angle of attack to cause the aircraft to stall. This is called a cross-control stall, and is very dangerous if it happens at low altitude where the pilot has little time to recover. In order to avoid this scenario, pilots are taught the importance of always making coordinated turns.

Spins can also be entered intentionally for training, flight testing, or aerobatics.

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