Incipient, Upright, and Inverted Spins

Here’s a quick demonstration of incipient spins from skidding and slipping turns, plus a classic spin from a slow-deceleration stall. Finally, I show an inverted spin. This video features views from both the left wingtip and the pilot’s perspective.

For more information, see my stall/spin page at BruceAir.com.

Videos: Stalls, Incipient Spins, and Recoveries from Inverted

Here’s a series of short videos captured during training for one of my customers last summer. They show a typical initial sequence in the stall/spin/upset recovery course that I offer to pilots of all experience levels in the Extra 300L.

After flying out to the practice area and warming up with steep turns to help the front-seat student get a feel for the Extra 300L, we begin with normal, slow-deceleration, wings-level stalls.
>Basic Slow Deceleration, Wings-Level Stalls

When I introduce stalls in any airplane, I like to follow the guidance in Chapter 4: Slow Flight, Stalls, and Spins of the Airplane Flying Handbook:

Usually, the first few practices should include only approaches to stalls, with recovery initiated as soon as the first buffeting or partial loss of control is noted. In this way, the pilot can become familiar with the indications of an approaching stall without actually stalling the airplane. Once the pilot becomes comfortable with this procedure, the airplane should be slowed in such a manner that it stalls in as near a level pitch attitude as is possible. The student pilot must not be allowed to form the impression that in all circumstances, a high pitch attitude is necessary to exceed the critical angle of attack, or that in all circumstances, a level or near level pitch attitude is indicative of a low angle of attack. Recovery should be practiced first without the addition of power, by merely relieving enough back-elevator pressure that the stall is broken and the airplane assumes a normal glide attitude. The instructor should also introduce the student to a secondary stall at this point. Stall recoveries should then be practiced with the addition of power to determine how effective power will be in executing a safe recovery and minimizing altitude loss. (AFH p. 4-5)

Accelerated (Turning) Stalls

Next, we fly a series of stalls while making coordinated turns. As the Airplane Flying Handbook notes:

An airplane will stall during a coordinated steep turn exactly as it does from straight flight, except that the pitching and rolling actions tend to be more sudden…The objectives are to determine the stall characteristics of the airplane and develop the ability to instinctively recover at the onset of a stall at other-than-normal stall speed or flight attitudes. An accelerated stall, although usually demonstrated in steep turns, may actually be encountered any time excessive back-elevator pressure is applied and/or the angle of attack is increased too rapidly…When the airplane stalls, recovery should be made promptly, by releasing sufficient back-elevator pressure and increasing power to reduce the angle of attack. If an uncoordinated turn is made, one wing may tend to drop suddenly, causing the airplane to roll in that direction. If this occurs, the excessive back elevator pressure must be released, power added, and the airplane returned to straight-and-level flight with coordinated control pressure. (AFH, p. 4-9—4-10)

I have my students fly coordinated stalls out of left and right turns, and just as during the basic stall practice, we recover by reducing angle of attack. Initially, we leave the power at a typical approach setting and we fly through at least 90 degrees of turn doing a series of secondary stalls while maintaining the bank angle. This exercise increases students’ confidence and helps them understand the importance of maintaining coordinated flight.

Skidding Stalls and Incipient Spins

After practicing stalls in coordinated turns, we move on to skidding and slipping stalls, emphasizing skidding stalls, which are the classic setup for an incipient spin. In general, these stalls are called cross-control stalls; you can read about them starting on p. 4-10 of the Airplane Flying Handbook.

The Extra 300L is an excellent platform for exploring skidding and slipping stalls because it’s fully aerobatic and approved for spins. As you can see in the video, I encourage students to let the stall develop so that they can see the effects of stalling while in a skidding turn.

Now, it’s true, as the student comments, that the Extra snaps right over to inverted or near-inverted when the wings stall out of a skid. But as I note in the video, even a tame Cessna 172 or Piper Warrior will yaw and roll aggressively if provoked into a skidding stall.

Recoveries from Inverted

My course also includes practice recovering from inverted or overbanked flight. The key lesson is to roll back toward wings level. Many pilots, disoriented by their first experience of inverted flight, try to pull back to upright flight (a split-S), which typically results in excessive airspeed, eats up a lot of altitude, and imposes excessive G-loads.

Recoveries from Rolling Upsets

Here’s an exercise that I have my upset-recovery customers perform to simulate a wake turbulence encounter or overbank/inverted attitude that might result from disorientation in poor visibility.

I have them fly one-and-a-half aileron rolls from upright to inverted and then recover. They key is to unload and, using rudder and aileron, roll the airplane back to wings-level, upright flight. It’s important to resist the urge to pull through (split-S), which rapidly increases airspeed eats up altitude, and typically leads to high-G loads during the recovery.

This customer resisted that urge and rolled upright, but we still lost about 1,000 ft., and the final airspeed was around 160 KIAS.

Spin Practice

Here’s one of my stall/spin/upset recovery customers flying his first spins. You can read more about spins at my website.

New Stall and Spin Demonstrations: Videos

I just posted several new short videos on my YouTube channel that demonstrate accelerated stalls, incipient spins from stalls, and an intentional spin. The videos, captured during flights in my Extra 300L, show the effects of stalling with coordinated controls and no yaw, stalling while yawing the airplane while turning with “top” and “bottom” rudder, and an intentional spin from a straight-ahead, slow-deceleration stall. I’ve also included a “quiz” video that shows more stalls while turning. See if you can predict which way the stall will break from each of the stalls.

In these videos, I deliberately allowed the stalls to progress to show the effects of misapplied flight controls. If I had applied down-elevator immediately at the first sign of a stall, the departures wouldn’t be apparent. You can’t go wrong following the PARE sequence (described by Rich Stowell) whenever the airplane departs and begins an incipient spin, but if you stop the stall immediately, you regain control of the airplane and can stop a spin from developing. That’s the key takeaway from these videos. At the first sign of a stall or impending departure, unload (relax back pressure and/or apply forward yoke/stick) to keep the stall from progressing. The first instinct of many (most) pilots when a wing drops during a stall is to apply aileron to try to stop the roll, and that action delays recovery and tends to aggravate the stall. In the initial stages of a stall/departure, push first; correct the roll later.

As the Airplane Flying Handbook notes (see “Fundamentals of Stall Recovery” in Chapter 4 on p. 4-4):

First, at the indication of a stall, the pitch attitude and angle of attack must be decreased positively and immediately. Since the basic cause of a stall is always an excessive angle of attack, the cause must first be eliminated by releasing the back-elevator pressure that was necessary to attain that angle of attack or by moving the elevator control forward. This lowers the nose and returns the wing to an effective angle of attack. The amount of elevator control pressure or movement used depends on the design of the airplane, the severity of the stall, and the proximity of the ground. In some airplanes, a moderate movement of the elevator control—perhaps slightly forward of neutral—is enough, while in others a forcible push to the full forward position may be required. An excessive negative load on the wings caused by excessive forward movement of the elevator may impede, rather than hasten, the stall recovery. The object is to reduce the angle of attack but only enough to allow the wing to regain lift.

The FAA also recently published AC 120-109: Stall and Stick Pusher Training (PDF) to clarify and emphasize the proper recovery from stalls. That AC notes in part that:

This AC emphasizes reducing the angle of attack (AOA) at the first indication of a stall as the primary means of approach-to-stall or stall recovery…Stall training should always emphasize reduction of AOA as the most important response when confronted with any stall event.

Core principals of this AC include:

  • Reduction of AOA is the most important response when confronted with a stall event.
  • Evaluation criteria for a recovery from a stall or approach-to-stall that does not mandate a predetermined value for altitude loss and should consider the multitude of external and internal variables which affect the recovery altitude. (Reference: Safety Alerts for Operators (SAFO) 10012, Possible Misinterpretation of the Practical Test Standards (PTS) Language “Minimal Loss of Altitude”).
  • Realistic scenarios that could be encountered in operational conditions including stalls encountered with the autopilot engaged.
  • Pilot training which emphasizes treating an “approach-to-stall” the same as a “full stall,” and execute the stall recovery at the first indication of a stall.
  • Incorporation of stick pusher training into flight training scenarios, if installed on the aircraft.

It’s important to understand how a stall develops into a departure, incipient spin, and then developed spin. You can, for example, see the difference between the type of stall/departure/incipient spin that occurs when you stall out of a yawing turn, and what you see during a deliberate spin from slow-deceleration, wings-level stall. This is why competent stall/spin/upset recovery training is valuable. You need to experience and practice a variety of situations.

You can learn more about stalls and spins in Chapter 4 of the Airplane Flying Handbook and Rich Stowell’s excellent book, Stall/Spin Awareness.

APS also has an excellent article, Cross-Controlled Stalls – The Skidded Turn, available on their website. As APS notes:

The recommended stall recovery (and the one that APS teaches) is: Push – Power – Rudder – Roll – Climb

You’ll also find more information at my website, here and here. Links to many references for pilots and instructors are available on my Aviation Resources page.