• Practicing spins build awareness regarding the recognition of, entry into, and recovery from spins
  • An aggravated stall resulting in auto-rotation about the spin axis wherein the aircraft follows a corkscrew path due to one wing being more stalled than another
  • Characterized by high AoA, low airspeed, and high rate of descent where all aerodynamic and inertial forces are balanced
    • It is this balance that must be upset to recover
  • Spins can be entered from any flight attitude and from practically any airspeed
  • A spin is initiated where the pilot includes or fails to include rudder, aileron, or power individually or in combination during a stall
  • Auto-rotation occurs from an asymmetrical stall (think skid)
  • There is an abrupt loss of control when leaving the stall and entering the spin

Sources of inadvertent stalls becoming spins:

  • Inadequate rudder application in steep climbs
  • False concept of airspeed when on base to final due to tailwind
  • Having aircraft in "reverse command" area in then pattern


  • A combination of roll and yaw about the C.G. That propagates itself and progressively gets worse due to asymmetrically stalled wings
    • A combination of roll and yaw about the C.G. That propagates itself and progressively gets worse due to asymmetrically stalled wings
    • The inertial forces on the aircraft exceed the aerodynamic control authority
    • A control input in any one of the three axes does not affect an immediate response about that axis
    • Auto-rotation occurs from an asymmetrical stall (think skid)
    • There is an abrupt loss of control when leaving the stall and entering the spin


  • Characterized by low AoA, high airspeed and high rate of descent but neither wing is stalled and the aircraft responds to normal inputs
  • A spiral is not a spin because in fact neither wings are stalled
  • Still extremely dangerous
  • Recovery is simply pushing the stick forward and leveling the wings

Phases of a Spin:

  • Incipient Phase:

    • The transition from a stall to a full spin is called the incipient phase
    • During this phrase, the aerodynamic forces are not balanced and the aircraft is more or less tumbling
  • Developed Phase:

    • The developed phase begins when the aerodynamic forces are in balance
    • The spin, although chaotic looking from inside the cockpit, has been established and recovery procedures are now necessary to break the spin
  • Recovery Phase:

    • During the recovery phase, controls are applied to stop spin, recover from the unusual attitude and maintain straight and level


  • Any maneuver that exceeds 60° of bank of 30° of pitch is prohibited unless occupants have parachutes
  • Does not apply if qualified instructor is doing required maneuvers of pilot or certificate rating?
  • Solo pilots may perform these maneuvers without parachutes?
  • Flight instructor applicants must have flight training in stall awareness, spin entry, spins, and spin recovery
    • Parachutes are not required for this training?


  • All that is required is sufficient yaw rate while an aircraft is stalled
  • In a spin, one or both wings are in a stalled condition, if both are stalled one wing will be in a deeper stall condition 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 toward 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

Spin Recovery Procedure:

  • WARNING: All procedures here are GENERALIZED for learning, fly the maneuver in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) or current Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)

  1. Select a safe location
    • Spins will result in large losses of altitude and so they should be performed free from high traffic areas
    • Always broadcast your intentions over the appropriate deconfliction frequencies, if available
  2. Select a safe altitude
    • Generally, this should be no lower than 6000' AGL
    • The intent is to have enough altitude to enter the spin, stabilize, and recover with plenty of safety margin
  3. Perform clearing turns
    • You are going to lose a lot of altitude so be sure to check below you in addition to around you
  4. Reduce power , adjusting pitch (trimming) to maintain altitude
    • The use of power at the entry will assure more consistent and positive entries to the spin
  5. At the first indication of stall (entry phase):
    • Smoothly pull the elevator control to the full aft position
    • Just prior to reaching the stall "break," apply rudder in the desired direction of spin rotation so that full rudder deflection is achieved almost simultaneously with reaching full aft elevator
  6. As the spin is entered (incipient phase), reduce the throttle to the idle position and ensure that the ailerons are in the neutral position
  7. Hold the elevator and rudder controls in full until the spin recovery is initiated (developed phase)
    • Verify that the throttle is in the idle position to avoid over-speeding the aircraft
  8. Apply and HOLD full rudder opposite to the direction of the rotation
    • Just after the rudder reaches the stop, move the control wheel briskly forward, far enough to break the stall
    • HOLD these flight control inputs until the rotation stops
  9. As the rotation stops, neutralize the rudder
    • You want to stabilize the aircraft's directional control
    • Holding the rudder after the rotation stops could induce a spin in the opposite direction
  10. Roll wings level
    • Level wins ensures you are not climbing in a turn
    • Climbing in a turn decreases vertical lift, and causes unnecessary load factors
  11. Pull the nose up to the horizon
    • Be careful not to stall the aircraft by being too aggressive but realize that you'll be in a very nose low altitude losing thousands of feet per minute
  12. Add power
    • You'll need to add power to accelerate to cruise speed
    • Apply power as necessary to avoid stalling but absolutely apply full power once level
  13. As cruise airspeed is attained, set cruise power and re-trim as necessary
  14. Complete cruise checklist

Spin Common Errors:

  • Failure to apply full rudder pressure (to the stops) in the desired spin direction during spin entry
  • Failure to apply and maintain full up-elevator pressure during spin entry, resulting in a spiral
  • Failure to achieve a fully stalled condition prior to spin entry
  • Failure to apply full rudder (to the stops) briskly against the spin during recovery
  • Failure to apply sufficient forward-elevator pressure during recovery
  • Waiting for rotation to stop before applying forward elevator
  • Failure to neutralize the rudder during recovery after rotation stops, resulting in a possible secondary spin
  • Slow and overly cautions control movements during recovery
  • Excessive back-elevator pressure after rotation stops, resulting in possible secondary stall
  • Insufficient back-elevator pressure during recovery resulting in excessive airspeed

Airman Certification Standards:

Spin Case Studies:

  • NTSB Identification: ERA14FA345 The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident to be: The pilot's failure to maintain adequate airspeed for the airplane's configuration and flight profile, which resulted in an exceedance of the wing's critical angle-of-attack and a subsequent aerodynamic stall/spin


  • Spin characteristics will vary from aircraft to aircraft depending on design and wear (bends/twists/dents) - see case study
  • For more information check out The Light Airplane Pilot's Guide to Stall/Spin Awareness
  • There is a misconception that a slip (a cross-control maneuver) will result in a spin and while possible it is unlikely
    • In fact aerodynamic forces generally prevent auto-rotations in that scenario however, skids as a cross-controlled maneuver will absolutely promote spins
  • Consider practicing maneuvers on a flight simulator to introduce yourself to maneuvers or knock off rust
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