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Spin Recovery: What's The Purpose Of Each Step?

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Spins are always a hot topic, and spin recovery is one of the first maneuvers you learn in flight training. Many of us learned the spin recovery acronym "PARE," for Power, Aileron, Rudder and Elevator. It's a great way to remember spin recovery technique - but do you know what each step does?

In order to understand how PARE breaks a spin, you need to understand why the aircraft's spinning. Then, the recovery procedure makes sense.

The Spin - Are You Stalled?

"Are both wings stalled in a spin?" That's a great check ride question - especially for a commercial pilot. The answer is "yes." Both wings are stalled - but one's more stalled than the other.

Your wings generate lift even when they're stalled. But, as the stall becomes deeper, the amount of lift produced decreases. In a spin, one wing is stalled more than the other. The "more stalled" wing is the inside, low wing in the spin. It's at a higher angle of attack and is generating less lift than the outside, high wing.

spin-diagram-1

Since the high wing's generating more lift than the low wing, it rolls your aircraft into the spin. At the same time, the low wing's generating more drag, since it's at a higher angle of attack. That drag yaws you into the spin. When both of those forces combine, you end up in a fully-developed spin.

spin-diagram-3
spin-diagram-2

How do you recover? Simple. You break the stall on both wings - then the airplane will fly itself out. That's where "PARE" comes in.

PARE - Getting Out Of The Spin

How does "PARE" - Power, Aileron, Rudder and Elevator - get you out of the spin? Each step works to break the stall.

P - Power To Idle

First, you move your throttle to idle. This seems counter-intuitive - don't you add power in a stall recovery?!?

In this case, no. While you may feel like you're pointing straight down in a spin, you're actually not. Your flight path's nearly straight down, so while the nose looks low, you still have a very high angle of attack. Power aggravates this.

Airflow from your propellor strikes your horizontal stabilizer, generating a tail down force and raising the nose. Plus, if your center of thrust happens to be lower than your center of gravity, it creates a torque force that pitches the nose up. Moving the throttle to idle stops the pitch-up forces and makes it easier to lower your nose.

spin-diagram-4

A - Ailerons To Neutral

In a spin, each wing is stalled. But, the low wing is at a higher angle of attack (and so is more stalled) than the high wing. Bringing the ailerons to neutral helps your wings reach the same angle of attack - decreasing the pitching and rolling moments.

If you try to raise the low wing using aileron, it will stall even more, tightening the spin. Not good.

How about rolling into the spin? Won't that decrease the angle of attack on the inside wing? Bad idea. If you do that, you're increasing the angle of attack on the outside wing - which is still stalled. When the aircraft starts to recover, the increased angle of attack on the outside wing can cause the aircraft to snap into a spin in the opposite direction. That's possibly a neat airshow maneuver, but not something to try in an inadvertent spin.

R - Rudder Opposite The Spin

Next, add rudder opposite the direction of the spin. If you're spinning to the left, add right rudder and vice versa.

This helps break the rolling and yawing moment, stopping the spin.

E - Elevator Forward

You're stalled, so moving the elevator quickly forward decreases your angle of attack, ending the stall.

This step makes sense, but in a spin, you may feel like you're nosing the aircraft straight down. You're not - the aircraft's at a high angle of attack, and the only way to break the stall is to reduce that angle of attack.

spin-diagram-5

Continuing The Recovery

Once you've completed these steps, the stall will break and you'll literally fly out of the stall. Move your rudder to neutral once the aircraft stops spinning, and then raise the nose slowly to regain level flight.

Most light training aircraft will quickly exit a spin once you execute these steps, but some aircraft require a more tailored approach. Check your Pilot's Operating Handbook or Airplane Flight Manual for a spin recovery checklist. Make sure you have the procedure memorized - reading a checklist in a spin isn't really very practical...

Check Out These Spins

If you want to try a spin, grab a flight instructor. They had to execute spins when they were training for their certificate. In the mean time, check out the recoveries in the video below.


Aleks Udris

Aleks is a Boldmethod co-founder and technical director. He's worked in safety and operations in the airline industry, and was a flight instructor and course manager for the University of North Dakota. You can reach him at aleks@boldmethod.com.

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