What Flat Spins Are and How To Recover From One

One of the most dangerous incidents that a pilot can face while flying is a flat spin, and it is crucial that pilots have the knowledge and ability to recover from such situations for safety. Though flat spins are not common during routine flights, they are very dangerous as they can be extremely difficult to recover from in many instances. Generally, flat spins occur when there is no forward airspeed, causing the vehicle to spin toward earth around its vertical axis.

Spins typically occur when the aircraft is stalled, one wing having more stall than the other. Stalling often happens at extreme angles of attack, resulting in a loss of aerodynamic force on the wings and plummeting lift. With little lift, aircraft have a difficult time remaining airborne. While stalling does not always mean that no lift is being produced, rather only a minimal amount. The dangerous part of a stall is if a yawing or rolling motion causes one lift to stall before the other, possibly leading to a corkscrew-shaped spiral as the aircraft loses altitude. As spins occur in a rapid fashion and often disorient the pilot, it is important that pilots have ample ability to avoid such situations to pull themselves out of a spin.

Upright, inverted, and flat spins are all common hazards that one may face if extreme stalls occur, and flat spins are the most dangerous due to a total lack of forward airspeed. Without airspeed, the flight controls will have little effect on the heading of the aircraft, and the vehicle will keep spinning as it loses altitude. As a result, it is extremely difficult for a pilot to effectively correct such situations. To avoid such dangerous situations, pilots should always avoid conditions where they may face a stall, and they should have ample training on how to correct standard stalls and spins. Nevertheless, if a flat spin does occur, then pilots should take advantage of the spin recovery technique known as “PARE” (Power to idle, ailerons neutral, rudder opposite turn, elevator forward).

Weight and balance are crucial elements for aircraft to remain in an airworthy condition. Generally, an optimally loaded plane will be one that is nose-heavy without having to use any particular flight control. With nose-sinking, airspeed can be increased to deter the chance of a flat spin. If optimal loading is not achieved, then the pilot will ensure that everything is within a safe flight envelope and will make corrections as necessary.

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