“Technedure” and Spin Recoveries

I am in Florida presenting SAFE CFI-PRO™ to a flight academy here. Please read (and comment on) this very interesting give and take on spin recovery and the general topic of “technedure” – when a personal technique becomes an accepted – and passed on – procedure. (and a bit about aircraft manuals)

First read Natalie Bingham Hoover, AOPA Pilot, March 2020

And here is a reply from SAFE Founding and lifetime member

Rich Stowell

Master Instructor Emeritus
34,700 spin entries/recoveries in 240 single-engine airplanes representing 44 types.  AOPA Member since 1984

While the article by Instructor Hoover raises several interesting points, her use of the PARE acronym as an example of issues with so-called “technedures” highlights persistent misunderstandings among pilots about spin recovery.

The PARE acronym evolved as part of the Stall/Spin Awareness module taught in our Emergency Maneuver Training program. The acronym has been around for 30-odd years now, and its use in primary flight training has become widespread. The acronym and associated recovery checklist merely restate tried-and-true NASA Standard spin recovery actions—actions that were first identified 84 years ago by NACA (the forerunner to NASA). NASA confirmed the veracity of these actions between 1977 and 1989, during the most comprehensive research program ever undertaken regarding spins in light, single-engine airplanes.

As detailed in my book, “The Light Airplane Pilot’s Guide to Stall/Spin Awareness,” use of PARE comes with clearly defined caveats. Among other requirements, the acronym and associated checklist must be:

  • Applied in the context of typical, light, single-engine airplanes (which make up three-quarters of the general aviation fleet);
  • Applied only in conjunction with tried-and-true NASA Standard spin recovery actions; and,
  • Used for educational purposes by ground and flight instructors as part of civilian stall/spin awareness training.

That some in general aviation would suggest that PARE could be applicable to military aircraft not only misrepresents the acronym, but also illustrates operational human errors and omissions that are being committed during flight training.

If procedure is the “what,” technique is the “how and when.” Thus the recommendation “power off” is procedure. Techniques include closing the throttle, pulling the mixture to idle cutoff, or turning the mags off. Each satisfies the procedure. With all things equal, the question becomes, “which technique is superior?” Further, as soon as recovery actions are embellished with words such as “before,” “simultaneously,” or “after,” or arranged in a numbered list, procedure has been infused with technique— the very definition of technedure. Published spin recovery information—including PARE—is technedure. So the question remains: Which spin recovery techniques are superior?

Instructor Hoover compares the manufacturer-supplied spin recovery technedures for the Piper Tomahawk and the Cessna 152. Both manufacturers adhere to “power off.” The technedure in the Tomahawk manual places this action as Step (d) with the wording, “close the throttle.” In contrast, Cessna technedures for the 152 range from listing the power action in:

  • Step 2 with “retard the throttle to idle position” in the airplane manual; but,
  • Step 1 with “verify ailerons are neutral and throttle is closed” on the cockpit placard; but,
  • Step (a) with “verify that ailerons are neutral and throttle is in idle position” in the pamphlet, “Spin Characteristics of Cessna Models 150, A150, 152, A152,172, R172 & 177.”

Some manufacturers don’t even mention power. Examples include the Robin R 2100, Grob G 115C, de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver, and Great Lakes 2T-1A-2. Are the manufacturers implying that power setting is irrelevant during spin recovery in those airplanes? Or are the manufacturers assuming that power is already off? Are you willing to gamble that spin recovery won’t be delayed or thwarted altogether because the power was left on? Power is known to aggravate spin behavior; thus, taking the power off and doing it earlier rather than later in the recovery process is a superior recovery technique, whether or not the manufacturer includes it in its published technedure.

A deep dive into certification spin testing also reveals the following:

  • The 1989 and 1993 versions of the “Flight Test Guide for Certification of Part 23 Airplanes” recommend the use of NASA Standard spin recovery, i.e., “Recoveries should consist of throttle reduced to idle, ailerons neutralized, full opposite rudder, followed by forward elevator control…unless the manufacturer determines the need for another procedure.”
    • Ninety-four percent of spin test pilots believe the actions listed above are the most effective for spin recovery in typical, light, single-engine airplanes.
    • The wording “unless the manufacturer determines the need for another procedure” was deleted in the 2003 revision of the “Flight Test Guide.” This wording does not appear in the 2011 revision, either.
  • Sixty-three percent of spin test pilots said it is not normal practice to try to find the optimum sequencing of spin recovery actions for a given airplane during spin testing for certification.
  • Fewer than half of spin test pilots believe that flight manuals adequately present spin recovery information.
  • Little to no guidance is provided regarding how spin recovery information should be presented to pilots. The typical Beechcraft spin recovery technedure, for example, is not listed chronologically even though a sequence of events is unmistakable: “Ailerons should be neutral and throttle closed at all times during recovery [emphasis mine]” appears after the pilot “execute[s] a smooth pullout” once rotation stops.

Should we continually question what we think we know? Absolutely! Do instructors need to do a better job of pointing out technique to their students, including providing some justification as to why they prefer a particular technique? Yes! And while it can be difficult to separate good information from bad, instructors need to remain vigilant against spreading inaccurate or incomplete information.

The most effective technedures for spin recovery in typical, light, single-engine airplanes have been known for a long time. Do some exceptions to the NASA Standard exist even among single-engine airplanes? Of course. But does that justify perpetuating the status quo, where manufacturers and instructors alike deliver critical spin information without regard to spin dynamics, consistency, or human factors?

SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?) June10/11 at Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Successful CFI (Different Challenges!)

If you are an approved FAA educator, you carry two pieces of FAA plastic in your pocket; pilot and CFI. Each certificate demands a very different personality to be successful. The pilot certificate requires a high degree of precision and skill. This level of piloting needs assertiveness and confidence – fast action and intolerance of error; airplane challenges.

In sharp contrast, the flight instructor world needs patience and tolerance, time and understanding. A good CFI allows their pilot-in-training to explore and self-correct. It can be initially painful for a new CFI to feel a plane wallow around the sky as the student learns new skills. Impatient (often new) CFIs tend to micro-manage the controls and radio trying to regain the precision they are familiar with. But this is not a successful strategy for education! Let’s unpack the challenges of a successful aviation educator; human challenges.

On the piloting side, we are a rare and unique breed; part of the 1% of our population that has achieved the unique skills required for safe flight. There is some earned pride here but as pilots, especially at the higher levels, there can be a  humorous “pilot personality” which may occasionally involve fancy watches and expensive sunglasses. The Airline Pilots Association lists 24 unique characteristics of pilots that may cause disdain or laughter depending on how closely you resemble this published psychological profile (ask your significant other).

Physically and mentally healthy ⊗ Reality-based ⊗ Self-sufficient ⊗ Difficulty trusting anyone to do a job as well as themselves ⊗ Suspicious ⊗ Intelligent but not intellectual ⊗ They like “toys” ⊗ Good at taking things apart and putting them back together ⊗ Concrete, practical, linear thinkers rather than abstract, philosophical, or theoretical. ⊗ More analytical than emotional ⊗ Reality-oriented ⊗ Goal-oriented ⊗ Short term goal orientation and not long-term goal-driven ⊗ Bimodal (black/white, on/off, good/bad, safe/unsafe) ⊗ Tend to modify environment instead of their behavior ⊗ Hunger for excitement ⊗ Competitive ⊗ Do not handle failure well ⊗ Low tolerance for personal imperfection ⊗ Long memories of perceived injustices ⊗ Draw conclusions about people at a glance rather than relying on long and emotion-laden conversation ⊗ Avoid introspection ⊗ Have difficulty revealing, expressing, or even recognizing feelings ⊗ When experiencing unwanted feelings, a tendency to mask them with humor or anger.

I do not know if this list resonates with you but I certainly confess to some of these less-than-complimentary traits (AvWeb). Some of these attributes are necessary for the job, some are baggage and even harmful. I was more guilty of this “type” (emotionally cold, driven, self-reliant, etc) before becoming a parent and then teaching flying for many years.  An effective educator must acquire patience, tolerance, compassion, and trust; the toolkit of emotional intelligence. Having “ice water in your veins” might be valuable when piloting a century series fighter through incoming flak, but it is a huge impediment to successful aviation education. A caring relationship is essential to successful education. If you are not a “compassionate coach” the project will be painful for both the student and CFI, because the process takes time and the path is never straight.

Rod Machado “Bad CFI”

We have all seen the draconian CFI meme, with the instructor swatting a hapless student on the head with a sectional while screaming incomprehensible instructions. Or worse, terrorizing unprepared students with early stalls or spins to “weed out the weak and unqualified.” Obviously, this classic CFI ogre has no place in modern education. But humor aside, we all can miss the mark if we do not work very hard to be patient and empathetic when teaching. Being an effective educator requires patience and understanding never required in the pilot personality profile. One reason we selected the term “educator” in our organizational name “SAFE” was to distance our mission from the more narrowly defined historic term “instructor.” An “educator” engages the whole person as a unique individual, whereas an “instructor” is usually thought of as someone just conveying mere physical skills (good dog, bad dog). In any case, effective education requires emotional intelligence skills not often found just in piloting – a warm heart.

Emotional intelligence is universally recognized as the required meta-skill for modern business success as well as educational effectiveness. Harvard Business Review published a whole series of books on the subject and it is now integral in all business school curriculums. And I guess the best news is these emotional skills can even be improved by those of us born male and also in the age of dinosaurs. Whenever I ask an audience about their best educational experience, it usually involves a caring professional patiently guiding a student. SAFE has resources to help with this…we need more professional educators. Fly safe out there, and often!

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).

Kobe Crash – A Safety Wake-Up Call

We all were shocked and saddened this week by the tragic helicopter crash in California that claimed the lives of 9 people including charismatic basketball star Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter. There are the usual crazy conspiracy theories all over the internet, but here are a few cogent thoughts from aviators.

These sad events are always a wake-up call for all pilots to sharpen our risk management skills and keep our instrument skills sharp in case they are suddenly needed. Fortunately, if you examine the whole of aviation, it is remarkably safe.  As aviation educators, we must maintain high standards of excellence and rigorously train these important skills to keep all our aviators safe. No one wants to rush to judgment but here are a few ideas and comments:


Click for Plane and Pilot commentary
Click for Flying Magazine commentary

…and from Richard McSpadden at the Aviation Safety Institute (posted on FaceBook and reprinted here with permission): 

The tragic helicopter crash claiming the lives of Kobe Bryant and 8 others reinforces some sober learning for all pilots, regardless of the NTSB’s findings. 1) Flying vfr into imc conditions is dangerous, regardless of your experience and ratings. A third of these accidents happen to experienced, ifr-rated pilots. 2) The nether land between kind-of flying on instruments and kind-of flying via visual reference is far more challenging than just flying on instruments. This hybrid arena lends itself to visual illusions and spatial disorientation. The consequences of which are exacerbated by proximity to the ground and reduced time-to-impact. 3) Reduced visibility in hilly terrain is especially treacherous. Lights from cars, houses, other sources have a subliminal disorienting effect that creates false horizons, difficult to recognize until its too late. 4) Fog, and in particular coastal fog is highly unpredictable and can move in dense waves. 5) Flights, conditions and decisions must be assessed differently when you operate single-pilot. This flight, under these conditions, was extraordinarily demanding for a single pilot.
Fortunately, most pilots are aware of these issues, I’m sure this pilot was. By all accounts, he was an exceptional pilot. But it only takes one lapse in judgment, on one flight. It’s possible the NTSB findings will reveal a completely different cause for the accident…but its also unlikely they will. The crash is an unfathomable tragedy for the families involved. It also damages the credibility of general aviation and helicopters. These operations have a phenomenal safety record, but we don’t hear about the millions of flights a year that operate safely. We only hear about the tragic ones.

Click for FORBES article on Kobe crash…

The NTSB has already started their comprehensive investigation (as with the Hudson River Liberty crash last year) and will have more details in a year or so. In the meantime, extract what lessons we all can learn. Fly safely out there…and often!

SAFE CFI-PRO™ workshop  is open to every aviation educator at every level (even if you are working on your CFI?)

Join SAFE to support our safety mission of generating aviation excellence in teaching and flying. Our amazing member benefits pay back your contribution (1/3 off your ForeFlight subscription)! Our FREE SAFE Toolkit App puts required pilot endorsements and experience requirements right on your smartphone and facilitates CFI+DPE teamwork. Our CFI insurance was developed by SAFE specifically for CFIs (and is the best value in the business).