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Thread: Spins - Spitfire self training

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    Supporting Member Baffin's Avatar
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    Spins - Spitfire self training

    I've demonstrated and instructed spins in the Cliffs of Dover Spitfire rather extensively since my last post and would like to share my observations:


    The RAF rule of no intentional spins below 10,000' AGL is a real good idea. If your first recovery gives you trouble, you can try again. If it's successful, you can do one or two more spins before altitude becomes critical. You can even experiment with intentionally incorrect procedures for your own personal training, but get serious about recovering when below 5,000'. (As per the 1940 Pilots Notes)

    Practice extended spins with gear and flaps UP, all spins with the radiator shutter OPEN. This is the normal configuration for the slow flight entry.

    1. At 10,000', trim the clean airplane for 160 MPH, or 0.3 units aircraft nose down (AND). Stop trimming.

    2. Throttle IDLE.

    3. Propeller FINE (Fast, forward)

    4. Increase back pressure, using rudder and aileron to maintain heading and wings level. When full AFT stick is reached, the airplane will roll uncontrollably, probably to the LEFT. Maintain full aft stick with NO aileron input. The Spitfire may spin, depending on your rudder position, or it may enter a spiral dive.

    5. To assure a true spin entry, smoothly apply FULL rudder in the direction of the spin. If you want to spin in the opposite direction for any reason, simply apply the opposite rudder, but keep the elevator FULL UP (Back) with neutral ailerons. We can't really feel centered ailerons in our simulator, so look out at the wingtip and find what neutral really feels like on your joystick. You are now in a spin!

    6. Simulators allow you to take a few seconds to see what's going on, so look at the rate of rotation and the oscillation of your pitch attitude. After spinning for a few turns, smoothly take your feet off the rudder pedals (Stick still full AFT) to observe the "Developed" spin. The Spitfire continues to rotate since the outboard moving wing is in a less stalled condition than the inside wing. The inside wing has more drag due to its almost fully stalled condition thereby causing the continued rotation.

    7. Finally, you can slowly reduce back pressure on the elevator to a "Hands OFF" state. If you're lucky (or unlucky, depending on your point of view) your Spitfire will continue to spin. This is the FULLY developed spin which may progress to a "Flat Spin", but most likely will spontaneously recover and start a nose low spiral after a few turns. In a balanced, undamaged Spitfire, I have been unable to cause either a sustained, flat spin or an inverted spin. In my opinion, a normal Spitfire just won't enter these conditions without intentional pilot input or some kind of significant damage.

    8. The fully developed spin requires a true spin recovery procedure but the nose low spiral recovery is simply a rolling, high speed dive recovery (roll wings level, THEN pull up). The true "Flat Spin" may be unrecoverable according to the pilots notes, requiring a dangerous parachute exit from the doomed aircraft. The reasons for the development of a flat spin are threefold: Power, center of gravity, and finally, airplane damage.

    Power: If the throttle is providing thrust, then it most likely is increasing the rate of rotation. You can observe this by entering a practice spin while adding power instead of reducing it. By manipulating the throttle while spinning, you can really "Wrap up" a Spitfire into a high speed flat spin. Try it... it's great fun!

    Center of gravity (CG): If, for any reason, the CG is too far forward, most of the weight is aft. This condition makes it harder to drop the nose, an essential element in breaking any stall (A spin is an autorotating stall). In the Spitfire, structural damage is the only way I can think of to alter the CG, unless you're carrying some kind of cargo behind the seat. (Two cases of French wine, your girlfriend, etc.)

    Airplane Damage: Obviously, forward structural damage like having your propeller shot away, can impact the CG. More importantly, structural damage, especially to flight controls may prevent recovery from any spin. If you cannot seem to recover from a spin above 5,000', look around to find missing stabilizers or control surfaces. This will make the decision to bail out much simpler!

    9. Recovery: Most spins will recover if you just release the stick, take your feet off the rudders and watch the houses get bigger for a few seconds. Supermarine designed it that way. If this doesn't work, you need to execute a spin recovery.


    Throttle - IDLE.

    FULL RUDDER - Smoothly apply opposite the spin direction (Opposite the turn needle) and hold it until rotation stops.

    DOWNWARD ELEVATOR - ONLY AFTER THE SPINNING STOPS - Center the rudder and smoothly apply some forward stick to break the stall. Recovering too early can cause wild gyrations that can incapacitate the pilot. If the elevator is not effective, you must assume that control has been lost due to a broken cable or other mechanical problem. A last-ditch effort is to trim the elevator nose down and increase power to let the propwash flowing over the trim tab force the tail UP (Nose DOWN).

    RECOVER FROM THE DIVE - Check Airspeed-At 150 MPH MINIMUM, gently apply UP elevator. Applying backpressure before 150 MPH may result in a secondary stall or spin and must be used only to avoid ground contact.

    IF OUT OF CONTROL - Below 5,000' AGL, BAIL OUT!


    1. Configure the Spitfire with gear and flaps DOWN.

    2. Simulate YOUR final turn with YOUR trim and airspeed preference.

    3. Increase bank and back pressure until the airplane STARTS to spin. (Snaps over)

    4. Recover. This sounds easy but actually is the step that will kill you if you haven't practiced it. The natural tendency in the traffic pattern is to add power, while the spin recovery procedure is THROTTLE - IDLE. If done properly, a Spitfire can be recovered with about 600' altitude loss. If you do everything right you may still have to settle for a hard, off runway landing due to the low altitude in the pattern. Final turn stalls and spins have historically been a major cause of pilot fatalities for military and civilians alike.


    Spins are a fun pastime after the mission ends and you're waiting for a game restart. Practicing them may help prevent demotion to the dreaded TYRO status!
    Last edited by Baffin; Feb-21-2020 at 13:33. Reason: Elevator failure procedure
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