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#66 To Spin Or Not To Spin!

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I’ve been noodling about my policy regarding spin training.  As many who’ve flown with me know, I divide spin training into two parts.  Intentional spins with a recovery on a heading are taught as a proficiency maneuver, but at no time is it ever offered as a method for recognizing the onset of an unintentional spin.  For that, we have a procedure where we re-create the elements that commonly lead up to such a spin and help the student to learn recognition of it before it bites him.Spin 1

I’ve always allowed the student to decide if he wants to spin.  I’ve never required it.  I haven’t changed my policy, but I am thinking about it.  My “Goofys” are arguing about it as well.  You don’t know about my Goofys? They are imaginary cartoon-characters who help me make almost all difficult decisions.  The somewhat hardnosed, no-nonsense Goofy who normally perches on my left shoulder says, “Hey, if they’re scared to do a spin while you’re sittin’ right there to protect them, tuh Hell with ‘em.  Let ‘em find another flight instructor; preferably a Pansy!”

“Left Shoulder Goofy” continues to splutter with his angry rant as I clap my hand over his muzzle and turn to my other shoulder.

The Goofy who perches on my right shoulder is far more sensitive and understanding.  “People have to proceed at their own rate,” he says, soothingly.  “If they feel uncomfortable undergoing spin training, they should be allowed to avoid it in the interest of continuing to improve their proficiency.  Maybe they’ll come back to it”.

Without realizing it, the Goofy on my right shoulder may have inadvertently nailed it with his use of the word “uncomfortable”.

Years ago, I became familiar with a philosophy that was essential to the outdoor training offered by “Outward Bound”.  That organization maintained that it was necessary to get out of your “comfort zone” in order to learn certain skills and, indeed, to learn more about yourself.  Time and again, I have seen that philosophy proven to be correct.  It certainly applies to spin training.

The practice of spins can lead to wooziness, regardless of your level of desire to learn about this maneuver.  That’s why it’s best to introduce the spins at the very tail end of a flight.  I normally do spins within a mile or so of the home airport.  I keep a close eye on the student and we swoop into a landing right after a couple of rotations.

If we were to follow this routine at the end of every lesson, we’d have a pretty well-trained pilot at the end of a six hour Tailwheel Endorsement course.

So I guess I have some deciding to do:  Should I listen to “Left Shoulder Goofy” and insist on spin training as a part of my course?  Or should I adopt the philosophy of “Right Shoulder Goofy” and opt to give all my students the benefit of what I believe is good training without withholding that opportunity from those who don’t want to spin?

As is often the case, simply writing about the subject has helped me to form opinions about it.  I’ll continue to offer spins as an option for some time.  But the fact that I’ve dithered about it on these pages should indicate how important I believe spin training to be.  I’ll allow “Left Shoulder Goofy” to have the last word on the subject.

“Get outta yore comfort zone!  Cowboy up and ask Brian to run you through a little spin training.  It might scare ya a little at first, but remember what Ol’ Bill used to say:  ‘No guts, no air medal!’ “.

Happy Swooping (and spinning),