Get extra lift from AOPA. Start your free membership trial today! Click here

Flight School Spotlight: Discover Flight

By Jim Pitman

When we covered the topic of basic aerobatic and upset training in the May 1 issue, we left two important questions unanswered: Where can instructors go to become properly trained to teach spins and other basic aerobatic maneuvers? And, other than Aviation Performance Solutions (mentioned in that earlier article), what other flight schools can you outsource this type of training to?

Discover Flight

Fortunately, we have Jamie Pittman (no relation to the author) to provide the answers. Pittman is an experienced aerobatic instructor and the founder of Discover Flight, a grassroots flight school located at Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

To emphasize the importance of this type of training, Pittman shared this personal account: “One thing I always cover on flight reviews is an in-depth discussion of stall/spin awareness. I was flying with a pilot, we’ll just call him John, and he was very confident in the ground discussion about spins and their avoidance and recovery. He couldn’t imagine the day that he would find himself in that situation. Little did he know, that time would come no more than an hour later.

“While performing slow flight during the flight review, John began flying the aircraft yawed ever so slightly to the left. The aircraft began to buffet and roll left, so he slammed the throttle forward, and brought the yoke back and to the right.” As Pittman had been exposed to stall/spins numerous times, he sat and waited for John’s next move—but it never came. John began to scream, “Help! Take it, take it, take it!”

“Had I not been there, John would not have fared well,” Pittman said. “There are more Johns than there ought to be. All I want to do is help make these emergency-like situations seem normal, so panic is never on the emotional menu. I think of John every time I hear that another pilot has died in another loss-of-control accident.”

The statistics show that, as an industry, we need to do a better job teaching pilots the related aerodynamics and physical skills that are required to both prevent and recover from loss-of-control (LOC) scenarios. “Lack of accessibility to training is at the foundation of the LOC problem. However, I’m not a proponent of anyone giving advanced spin and upset training. Being truly competent takes a long-term commitment,” Pittman said.

“As a niche flight school operator that focuses mainly on tailwheel and aerobatics, I get a lot of inquiries about upset training, and they often turn into customers,” Pittman said. “I’ve flown with a lot of pilots ranging from new students, to military aviators, to high time airline pilots, but regardless of the type, they usually demonstrate poor directional control and few of them understand how to interpret yaw. For most, they’ll get away with that their entire career, as a significant percentage of modern aircraft are designed to eliminate adverse yaw or even prevent stalls.

“With that said, these modern aircraft don’t make them exceptional pilots. If and when one of these pilots wants to branch into another aircraft or partake in a different type of flying, it may cause them trouble. In flying, you have nothing without safety; and without a solid understanding of applied aerodynamics, there is no safety,” Pittman said.

Most flight instructors receive a minimal amount of spin training right before taking the checkride and never spin an aircraft again in their lives. Pittman believes this is unacceptable. “If you only landed an aircraft every 10 years, would you feel safe and well-practiced? Spins are no different, so we recommend that every pilot receives continued spin training every six months. And we would like to help make this training more accessible,” Pittman said.

In addition to a spin/upset course, Pittman and his team offer various aerobatic courses that are customized to meet the needs and desires of each customer. They also are designing a course specifically for instructors who wish to provide better training on these topics and maneuvers. If you are unable to travel to Oshkosh, Pittman will go to your flight school to conduct this training with your customers and instructors.

“If you have pilots who want to learn inverted spins and snap rolls, please send them to us or another knowledgeable aerobatic flight school, but there’s no reason why the average private pilot student should have to travel hundreds of miles to get to the nearest spin recovery lesson,” Pittman said. “My vision is to help train instructors at flight schools all across the country to help them become properly qualified and confident to provide the level of spin training and LOC prevention our industry needs,” he said.

Pittman believes earning a tailwheel endorsement essentially forces pilots to be more in tune with an aircraft’s finer aspects of handling, which in turn will make them safer pilots. “We use a Piper J–3 Cub and a Pitts S2B as our training aircraft. In addition to basic tailwheel training, the Cub is excellent for teaching adverse yaw, which is something I find most pilots need a lot of help with,” he said. “And the Pitts is great for more advanced aerobatic maneuvers and spin training.”

At a minimum, all flight schools should instill the importance of continued education of this type, beyond what is required by the FAA for certification. Instead of that next avionics upgrade or flight simulator, a better investment might be to get one or more of your instructors checked out to perform LOC prevention and recovery training. If we all do a little, we can collectively improve the LOC statistics.

Connect with Jamie Pittman and learn more about Discover Flight at its website or Facebook page.

Jim Pitman has been a flight instructor since 1997. He has been a Part 141 chief flight instructor, Cessna Pilot Center regional manager, and Arizona Flight Instructor of the Year. He currently flies the Canadair Regional Jet for a U.S. carrier while operating his own flight training business. Connect with Jim at his website (

Related Articles