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Darwin and the Base-to-Final Spin

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Ever since the airplane was invented, we have observed the ways in which pilots have figured out how to kill themselves.  Then we’ve trained against those ways.

140 from rearThe base-to-final inadvertent spin is certainly toward the top of the list.  We train pilots to be coordinated because we know that an airplane which is both skidding and stalling is the most likely to spin.  I teach spins in two ways and I take care to make sure that everyone who flies with me understands the difference.  We spin with attention to the proper entry and a recovery on the same heading we had when we started.  That’s an intentional spin and it’s taught as a proficiency maneuver.  That is, it increases flying proficiency and is fun to boot. It doesn’t teach a pilot to recognize or avoid an unintentional spin.  But we also teach the inadvertent spin.  We try to re-create the situation that results in a spin during the turn from base to final.  We want the student to recognize the skid and the high angle of attack and to be able to avoid the coming spin into the ground.  But I’ve noticed that once I’ve demonstrated that maneuver and had my students perform it, they almost all say the same thing:  “I just don’t see how you could get in that situation without realizing it!”

I agree and I’m beginning to think that this may just be a case of aviation Darwinism.  We’ve created an environment where no one washes out of pilot training.  If you’ve got enough money, you can eventually get a pilot’s certificate and you’re off to join the gaggle.  You can also continue to reproduce, ensuring that the same inability to fly will be inherited by your offspring so that they, too, can do something stupid.  That’s where the Darwinism comes in.  I’m beginning to wonder if the predisposition for the base-to-final spin isn’t maybe an event that is somehow concocted in the big unknown and cosmic-karmic spirit-world to weed out the unfit-to-fly.  Maybe all my students are right.  Maybe no one who has any ability to fly safely would ever get themselves into that situation.  Maybe the base-to-final spin is nature’s way of weeding out those who would otherwise pass on the bad-flying gene to their offspring.  If that’s true, it’s just a tragic shame that so many of those fliers will take some innocent person with them and deprive their loved ones of their own existence (Our responsibility to protect those who put their lives in our hands is an entirely different, and important, subject).

That the base-to-final spin is “Aviation Darwinism” is a scary thought, isn’t it?  I haven’t totally made up my mind on it, but I’m starting to lean in that direction.  It gives me hope to know that my students, all of whom are pretty good fliers will not fall prey to it and will continue with their…

Happy Swooping!