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Learn about the fine art of spins at AOPA's Tullahoma Fly-InLearn about the fine art of spins at AOPA's Tullahoma Fly-In

Aerobatic instructor Catharine Cavagnaro smiles as she pilots her Cessna Aerobat “Wilbur” at Ace Aerobatics School in Sewanee, Tennessee. Cavagnaro, a spin training expert, will speak at AOP’s Tullahoma Regional Fly-In Oct. 10. Photo by David Tulis

Catherine Cavagnaro likes to calculate weight and balance before each and every flight. When she takes a student aloft over Central Tennessee in her Cessna 152 Aerobat, she says, “I like to convey that it’s important to do a weight and balance for every flight you take, but even more important if you’re doing the silly things we are.”

The “silly things” she’s referring to are spins, spirals, and all manner of aerobatics.

Cavagnaro operates Ace Aerobatic School at Sewanee-Franklin County Airport in Sewanee, Tennessee. She will discuss “Spinning 101: The Basics of Spins and Spin Recovery” from noon to 1 p.m. on Oct. 10 at AOPA’s Regional Fly-In at Tullahoma Regional Airport in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

Cavagnaro understands why many pilots are hesitant to try spin training. Her goal is to impress upon her students that with proper knowledge and proper altitude, spins are “fun up high, but deadly down below.”

Aerobatic instructor Catharine Cavagnaro uses her Cessna Aerobat “Wilbur” to teach aerobatics at her Ace Aerobatics School in Sewanee, Tennessee. Cavagnaro, a spin training expert, will speak at AOPA’s Tullahoma Regional Fly-In. Photo by David TulisShe knows you learned spin recovery (in theory, and possibly in practice) when you trained to become a private pilot. Perhaps you drilled PARE—power out, ailerons neutral, rudder opposite to the turn of the spin, and finally elevator. But would you react correctly in the event of an actual spin? “The bad thing about spins, and the reason every pilot should have spin training, is that the recovery is counter-intuitive,” Cavagnaro says. “You’re seeing a lot of ground as we go around, but in order to recover you’re going to have to see more ground to reduce the angle of attack.”

Cavagnaro holds an airline transport pilot certificate and is a CFII. She’s also a mathematics professor who teaches at the University of the South in Sewanee. She trained with the late William K. Kershner, a flight instructor and aviation writer who logged more than 8,000 spins. Kershner was the original owner of Ace Aerobatic School. His Cessna 152 Aerobat, which hangs in the National Air and Space Museum, is a nearly identical twin to Cavagnaro’s, which she calls Wilbur.

Cavagnaro’s presentation is part of a full slate of activities planned for the Tullahoma regional fly-in. If you’re planning to attend, please RSVP online.

This AOPA Fly-In has been made possible by a generous grant from the AOPA Foundation. Visit for more details.

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.
Topics: AOPA, Events, AOPA Events

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