The article, “What, Me Spin?” by Barry Schiff (December 2007 Pilot) illustrated what I consider to be the most important aspect of flying. If I had to make a choice whether to keep a Garmin GPS 530 or that little ball you need to keep centered, I’d pick the simple, never failing little ball every time. One day about three years ago I had the opportunity to start tailwheel training in a J-3 Cub. After going through an hour of ground training the instructor asked me if I would like to spin. He told me that the one thing that would get me through this lesson was to treat spins as I would any other maneuver I do in an airplane. Prepare, execute, and recover. My first attempt entered me into a death roll spiral. If I had been without a flight instructor, I wouldn’t be alive to tell you my story today. Then, after a couple of recovery steps, my instructor said said to try again. This time, remembering to keep the stick fully back, I entered into my first successful two-turn spin. I proceeded to do three more in each direction without any assistance from the flight instructor. If I were to stall in an uncoordinated attitude on final to a landing and enter a spin, there would be zero chance of recovery when I have only 1,000 feet or so to work with and I’d be dead. I’d rather be lost than dead.
The reason Schiff’s instructor was so frightened is because of the unknown. More people die in the landing phase of accidents than any other phase of flight. Most of the preventable accidents can be contributed to uncoordinated attitudes. If you ever have the chance to perform spins, do it, but never do it without a trained flight instructor on board.
Just read “What, Me Spin?” and I am chagrined, but also happy to admit that I am living proof of the author’s point. Every pilot should have hands-on training on how to safely recover from a spin and, to take it one step farther, it should be part of their flight reviews. Just as you would never let someone fly an airplane alone after acing their written exam if they’ve never flown, you should never expect someone to understand how to recover from a spin until they’ve actually done it (several times).
My instructor (no older than my son!) showed me spins, had me induce spins, and then learn to recover from them. The natural byproduct of this training is that I learned to greatly respect, but not fear spins. As the weather started to improve this past spring and summer, I needed to get out and fine tune the various stalls that I would need to master to pass my flight exam (which I had already done to my instructor’s satisfaction numerous times). Don’t ask me how I did it, but I inadvertently placed the airplane in a spin. The very fact that I am here to write about it is a testimony to my instructor’s skills, my listening and learning, and the forgiving nature of the tried and true Cessna 172.
I will never forget that experience and intend to periodically review the proper recovery procedures for a spin because I know it can happen to me.
I honestly believe that those who have not had the training in actual spin recovery will never truly understand the importance of what I learned, which in turn will probably lessen their chance of recovering from an inadvertent spin.
Thomas B. Haines’ summation of the general aviation experience is right on target and mimics my own and many other pilots, too, I’m sure ( “Waypoints: The General Aviation Experience,” December Pilot).
My girlfriend and I got to fly my 1960 Cessna 180 from my own airstrip outside of St. Augustine, Florida, to Moab, Utah, and back (all VFR) this past spring. What a wonderful three-week trip. We got to see, hear, and smell so much, including the fires that were raging in north Florida/south Georgia at the time, the high winds and “wind farms” in west Texas and New Mexico, and the incredible “high” of getting to land at some extremely remote airstrips in Utah and Colorado. We also got to cross the Rockies through Colorado, another true adventure in a small airplane, and flew through a lot of airspace. Without fail, the air traffic controllers we dealt with were extremely professional, courteous and helpful. What a great system. We traveled through a total of 15 states and got to hear some of the different controllers’ accents Haines described in his article.
It’s so important for all pilots to try to spread the word of how great flying (and especially traveling) in a small airplane can be, in order to keep the level of interest up among existing pilots and to encourage new pilots, too. What a beautiful country we are blessed to live in.
Thanks for the recent article about noticing the little things while flying general aviation. It brought to mind a beautiful flight I took in the Salinas Valley one summer morning. I was taking a friend up for his first time flying in a “little” airplane. We were flying up the valley at about 750 feet early in the morning. People were harvesting lettuce, strawberries, artichokes, and whatever else was ready to be harvested. The sun was just rising in the east when we smelled the wonderful smell of green onions.
It was a strong but delightful smell and, sure enough, looking down we could see a crew picking those little green onions for the nation’s salads in the coming weeks.
We are truly blessed to be able to fly our “little” airplanes at 750 feet down valleys in the United Stated. Sometimes I forget that and complain about little things that I have no business complaining about. The sights, smells, and sounds of GA flying in the U.S.A. is true freedom. We need to remember how good we have it, cherish it, and protect it.
I read with much amusement your recent article. Your comment about Brunswick, Georgia, is quite true. We are based at Jacksonville Craig and are often returning from the north. I always joke with my wife that even if we are solid IFR and lose all instruments, we can just start to descend when we smell Brunswick. It was good to see that I am not the only one to notice.
I just thought I’d drop you a note to let you know that I enjoyed “President’s Position: Still $39...” January Pilot, and found it especially informative.
Thank you for highlighting the non-dues revenue. I, like many others I would suppose, was unaware of all of those products and services, and the benefits for AOPA. I personally appreciate the fact that the current dues are where they are as I’m in the unfortunate case of not expecting, nor receiving, any kind of raise this year (or the previous year). Times are tough for many people in the Midwest right now. For IT people like me, jobs are still around, but not losing pay each year is a major victory. I very nearly had to start covering my own health care this last year (which would have been like losing a couple thousand dollars from my salary, which is already less than half of what it was a few years ago).
So thank you for keeping the dues low, and I hope the AOPA employees appreciate the fact that they can get raises when at least some of us members are lucky to stay even.
The December issue of AOPA Pilot had a small error in the “Test Pilot” section on page 126. Question number six asks, “What is the largest airport in terms of square miles?” The answer on page 139 claims it is King Khalid Airport. That is certainly a very large airport, however it is not the largest. As of 1999, King Fahd International Airport near Dammam, Saudi Arabia, is the largest airport in the world in terms of area, covering 780 square km (301 square miles). It is slightly larger than the neighboring country of Bahrain. I hate to write about such a small detail, but I know AOPA strives for perfection when it comes to stating the facts.
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