Sunday, March 15, 2015


I grab at the shoulder harness and gasp out loud, Oh my God! I can't do this! The green Northern California hills wobbles below me an instant after seeing blue sky. Power idle, says his calm voice. The wobbling motion of the world becomes a smoother spin as the plane stabilized. Rudder, he says. The spin stops instantly and he pulls smoothly out of the dive. See, we only lost 500 feet. 

I regarded the plane I'd use for my spin training with
some trepidation when I arrived at the airport.
The first spin of my required spin training yesterday and I panicked. The word can't crossed my lips. I just did not know how I could do it. How can I spin a plane on purpose? But, I have to do this. If I'm going to be a CFI I have to be able to spin a plane and, more important, recover from spins safely. I hated it but I'd have to keep at this if I want to meet my goal. I asked him to do another one.

Climb back to up 5000 feet, full power and pitching up to the edge of a stall, then right before the stall, stomp left rudder and the nose yaws up and left. In a blink the world wobbles, then spins and recovers again. His calm voice guiding every step of the way. That time the initial wobble was less scary. Again.

Again and again and again. Five times he repeated the process, varying the characteristics of the spin by changing when he reduced power and how quickly he recovered. Each time I was able to think, instead of panic, through more of the process. Each time it became less terrifying and more familiar, not comfortable, but at least familiar.

My turn. I ask him to make sure I don't mess this up. He reassures me with a quick grin.  Power on stall, stomp rudder, yaw and roll, wobble and spin and very quick recovery. It was much less scary when I did it. I did it again and again, another three times before my stomach started to protest the G forces as I recovered from the dive at the end of the spin. I was starting to enjoy it. It was sorta fun! We decided to return to the airport before my stomach got any worse. We would go up to do spins to the right the next time we meet.

On the flight back to the airport I felt elated. I did it! I actually did it! I pushed through the panic and did it. If I can do that, I can do anything!

On the long drive home I thought about the spin and what I wanted to do next time I spin. Next time I want to let it spin longer and smooth out my recovery (in addition to spinning to the right and seeing what happens when you pull back on the elevator during a spin). I actually wanted more. I actually felt like I could control this scary thing, this spin, and decide to let it go on longer or decide to get out quicker.

I got home and basked in a strong feeling of relief and freedom and gratitude. Relief that I was able to push through the panic. That I would be able to go forward with the process and become a CFI.  Freedom, I wasn't sure why, but I definitely felt freer. Like there was something that was blocking me from the fullness of flying and I was free of that thing. Gratitude, honest gratitude, for and to my flight instructor who helped get me through it. The same flight instructor I've worked with for all of my certificates and ratings. This wasn't the first time I did a spin with a flight instructor in the plane, but it was the first time I was willing to do it a second time.

Elation, relief, freedom, gratitude... not what I expected as a result of spin training, but I will quite happily take it.

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