About a week ago, my continued flight training took me north to Waynesville, Ohio for spin awareness training at the Red Stewart Airfield. This little, very active, grass airfield came complete with a canine mascot. Although, I’m failing to remember her name (old age memory failure). It’s my understanding that she greets all visitors and she liked me well enough that I was permitted to stay.
The purpose of this course is to learn to recognize the beginnings of a spin situation in an airplane and to be able to recover from one. This program is required for students pursuing their CFI (certified flight instructor) rating. In my opinion, whether you want to be a CFI or not, it’s a good idea. Any flying that is different or out of your comfort zone is probably beneficial. Adding experience in various types of airplanes can be helpful too.
For me, this provided an opportunity to fly in another tailwheel, a Citabria. My tailwheel endorsement was attained in a Piper Cub. Specific airplane names or manufacturers are so much easier to identify after I’ve flown in it! At this point, I can happily say that the number of airplanes I can confidently identify has increased by two. Woohoo! I’m really beginning to feel like an aviation know-it-all. 🙄 That being said, it was good to experience flight in a different plane.
I’m always quietly evaluating airplanes, curiously wondering if THIS ONE is calling my name? Will this type find its way in my hangar one day? Do other pilots do this or is it just me? The Citabria is much easier to see out of than the Cub. Bonus. I have learned that many tailwheels are equipped with very basic instrumentation (except for newer, experimental aircraft). That is an adjustment for me. My little plane is fully equipped and it was my understating that that was just how most planes were. Not so. No radio? No autopilot? No WAAS GPS? What!? And it still flies?!?! Whoa. These are the airplanes “they” are referring to when discussing “stick and rudder” skills. What I enjoy, particularly, is feeling the different planes and then being able to make it do what I want. It makes me feel like the female Red Baron. I just need a scarf and leather helmet.
Whenever I’m introduced to a new instructor or flying with another pilot there’s a “breaking in” period. This instructor was fantastic. He was very warm and friendly from the get-go. We could totally be friends and hang out. That’s not always the case. That’s one of the biggest challenges for me when it comes to taking check rides. My natural tendency is to create a relaxing, fun atmosphere to make others feel welcome as soon as possible. That’s apparently not a shared goal with DPE’s (designated pilot examiners). Each one I’ve had, except one, has been very apathetic and that makes me soooooo uncomfortable. The check ride experience, full of evaluations, is stressful enough. My past examiners have rarely put much effort into creating a light-hearted, easy-going ambiance. It’s understandable. I get it. We need to stick to business. That doesn’t mean I like it. It makes me feel as I imagine a puppy might feel at the vet. Tail between the legs, shaking. And there’s no one to hide behind! 😭 “Can’t we all just be friends?!?!”
Here We Go…Diving Nose First To The Ground…
After we took off and were climbing to an acceptable altitude, there was a tinge of panic that hit me. “Who is this guy anyway? Do I even know if he knows what the hell he’s doing? Am I going to die within the next ten minutes?? Oh geez-I should’ve told the boys where my will is!!!” Luckily, this pilot probably knew exactly what was going on in my head. We just flew around a little and we had a lot of pleasant conversation. “Ice breakers” before we plummet to the earth. Nice touch.
Turns out he DID know what he was doing. Whew. Looks like I’ll live for a bit longer. After the first spin, I was pretty giddy. It is a little disconcerting initially. However, the airplane naturally wanted to recover without much coaxing. During private pilot training, we discussed PARE. PARE is the acronym for the spin recovery steps.
Power (close the throttle)
Rudder (full deflection in the direction opposite the spin)
Elevator (first, stick forward to un-stall the wing)
It seemed to me that these actions would be very deliberate and pronounced. Not the case in this experience. Every plane is different but the Citabria wanted to right itself without a whole lot of input. We did spins to the right and spins to the left. The lesson learned during these exercises is that you need to try pretty hard to make it happen. I’m not entirely sure how someone could just accidentally enter a spin. Maybe my focus is on the more extreme, OCD side when flying? I’m not suggesting this is the case in every type of airplane (disclaimer). My experience in different aircraft has taught me that one size does not fit all. Each is unique with its positive attributes and negatives. Maybe that’s why my quest for the perfect airplane continues…I’d like the beauty and style of a Ferrari; the comfort, bells, and whistles of a Mercedes; but with the fuel economy and maintenance costs of a Toyota Corolla, please.
Bonus Round: Loopty Loop!
Before we finished our time in the sky, the instructor asked if I’d like to do some loops. Really? Are you kidding me? Duh! Absolutely! He did the first one and then let me fly the next four or five. Now, of course, I’m signed up on the waitlist for the aerobatics course and scouring www.barnstormers.com for an aerobatic airplane…Why not?? #YOLO
If you haven’t completed a spin awareness training course, please sign up as soon as possible! It’s a fun learning experience that every pilot should add to their logbook. If you happen to get sucked into an aerobatics course as well, please let me know. I’d be happy to convince you that you need to buy a new airplane. Plus, you can let me fly it!! That sounds like a good deal to me.