Spins, Citabria 7ECA

Bartman

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I'm new to this, my Citabria is the first plane I've had access to on a regular enough basis to learn aerobatics. Hopefully we'll hear from others that have either been exposed to more formal training or more stick time in departures from straight and level.

My approach was to start with spins since spins are what can happen when some of the other maneuvers get botched. For the Primary category, there is a 1 1/2 turn spin.

From a judge's perspective, the aircraft must clearly stall before beginning rotation into the spin, the spin must be stopped precisely at 180 degrees from the entrance heading, the vertical downline must be held momentarily to define the vertical line, and the exit must be to a horizontal level line.

The Citabria and Decathlon both share a common trait, the plane must be aggressively stalled at the last moment using the last bit of energy in order for it to fall into a tight spin. Any amount of mushing through the stall or no clean stall and it will nose over and yaw/roll into a spiraling descent.

For the exit, I've found full opposite rudder will stop the spin on heading and it takes only a bit of down elevator to establish a vertical downline but you should work to looking out your left window to set pitch using the wingtip and horizon. It took me a lot of spins before I could calmly point the plane straight down and then glance away from the ground rushing up at me to look at the wingtip! lol

A clean exit to a horizontal line will pull about 3 1/2 G's and the throttle should be pulled back as necessary to keep from over-revving the engine.

Keep in mind, too much forward stick in the recovery could cause the plane to pitch over into an inverted spin so learn the recovery with neutral stick and work your way up to a vertical exit with any down elevator pressure.

What did I leave out?
 
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Big Ed

N50247 - '79 Super D
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Always practice over a linear terrain feature such as a long straight road. Use that to maintain alignment with the box. Contest success is very much about alignment. You get dinged hard for being off heading.

A few additional tips on competition spins:
  • Keep it coordinated, straight, and level as speed decays. A bit nose high will help the break.
  • Firmly pull stick to the rear when it reaches about 3/4 deflection, and the nose should break cleanly.
  • AlwaysSpin left when you can, so you are not fighting torque and gyroscopic precession. Less critical for Citabria than heavy prop aircraft like Super D.
  • Don't relax pro-spin controls even slightly, or you will fall out of the spin. Pull/kick to the control stops and hold it there.
  • Opposite rudder 1/4 to 1/3 turn prior to desired heading to slow rotation. How much prior will depend on how developed the spin is.
  • Pop stick forward to neutral on heading, while simultaneously centering rudder.
  • Continue pushing forward and look left at gauge or wingtip to set vertical line.
  • If you have a CS prop, add full power in the vertical line.
  • If you are off heading, gradually correct with roll during vertical line. Ensure wings are perpendicular to desired heading before pull out.
  • Once you set the vertical line, count "one thousand" and then pull 4G to level.
  • If you are approaching the yellow arc on pullout, the correct response is more pull, not less.
The trickiest part of competition spins is getting used to different nose attitudes in recovery, which can impact the timing of your anti-spin rudder and your on-heading stick pop. Until the spin stabilizes, at about 3 rotations, the nose oscillates up and down. So a 1 turn spin and a 1+1/4 turn spin can have quite different attitudes, and react differently to anti-spin rudder. There's no trick here, just awareness and practice.

Competition spins are a GREAT exercise for building your confidence, and IMO one of the best benefits of acro. Every pilot is afraid of spinning when they start flying, which means that every pilot is worried about stalls, and thus nervous about maximum performance maneuvers and MCA. Once you do 30 or 40 spins and realize how benign they are, and how much control you have over recovery, the fear goes away and they become fun. The unknown becomes known, which allows you to fly stalls and MCA without apprehension.
 
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Bartman

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Ed,

Thanks for the reply! All good info!

I thought the same thing about always spinning left but was told to spin into the wind (if the wind has a crosswind component) and that concerns with torque and gyroscopic forces are unfounded since the engine is at idle in the approach to the spin and during it. But I agree with what you said about pinning the stick aft and the rudder hard to one side in the spin until it's time to move them for the recovery.

It's also worth mentioning if your tailwheel isn't well greased it may get stuck left or right after a spin causing the plane to yaw for no reason after the recovery. When it happens I'll typically slow down, get the nose high and then waggle the rudder which usually centers the tailwheel.
 

Big Ed

N50247 - '79 Super D
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Tampa, FL
I thought the same thing about always spinning left but was told to spin into the wind (if the wind has a crosswind component) and that concerns with torque and gyroscopic forces are unfounded since the engine is at idle in the approach to the spin and during it.
This discussion mixes together two separate issues: aerodynamics and box positioning.

From an aerodynamic perspective, as we all know, the aircraft does not feel wind. Wind direction only matters in reference to the ground. Wind has no impact on how the aircraft breaks into a spin or recovers.

I have been taught that our aircraft break more cleanly and consistently to the left. In order to spin, an aircraft must roll and yaw in the same direction. Even at idle there is some amount of left roll tendency imparted in reaction to the force of the prop pushing against the air, some amount of left yaw imparted by the slipstream, and some amount of left yaw felt by gyroscopic precession of the prop disc in response to the nose dropping. All of these forces favor a spin to the left. I cannot say for certain this is the case with all aircraft, but in my experience with several Decathlons it seemed to be the case. I certainly concede that an aircraft should spin in either direction and that you should be comfortable doing that.

What muddies the discussion is box positioning, which is all about the wind. Spins are frequently used as a wind correction maneuver in sequences. If there is a substantial crosswind component, the aircraft drifts sideways in the box. By the latter half of the sequence, the aircraft will no longer be centered. Most sequences include a 90 change of axis maneuver about 2/3 thru the sequence to reposition the aircraft. A 1+1/4 turn spin works well for this purpose. In that instance, you must rotate into the wind to accomplish the correction. I have seen pilots go out of the box and get DQ because they spun away from the wind and it carried them out of the box before they could finish the reversal maneuver.

However ... if it were a 3/4 spin or a 1+3/4 spin, you would turn AWAY from the wind. Additionally if it were a single turn or 1+1/2 turn spin like the current primary sequence, then wind is irrelevant to the direction. In that instance, I would advocate going in the direction that the aircraft more readily spins. I think that is to the left, but that could just be superstition on my part, like wearing a rally cap.
 
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