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Spinning, the first solo, forced landings and tests for the “A” licence


TO PREVENT THE DEVELOPMENT OF FAULTS IN EARLY SOLO FLYING the pupil receives a short spell of dual instruction

TO PREVENT THE DEVELOPMENT OF FAULTS IN EARLY SOLO FLYING the pupil receives a short spell of dual instruction each day before flying by himself. The instructor will then deal with any points in the pupil’s flying which require further comment. In this picture an instructor at Brooklands Flying Club is emphasizing that the pupil can verify by means of his bubble cross level whether he is using the correct amount of bank in a turn.

WHILE a pupil carries out circuits of the aerodrome, each one ending in a landing, the instructor will keep a close watch on all the details of the pupil’s flying. The instructor will thus be able to correct any tendency to form bad habits in flying. Although at first the pupil will make numerous poor landings, he will, however, find himself occasionally making a good one. Soon the frequency of good landings will increase, and even the poor landings will be safe ones. At this stage the pupil is nearing his first solo flight - probably a pilot’s most memorable experience.

Before he is sent up for his first solo flight, the pupil may, or may not, be taught spinning. This is a matter that is mainly dependent on the type of machine on which he has received his instruction. If the machine is one that will not spin, or which is not

intended to be spun, obviously, spinning will not find a place in tuition. But most aircraft designed to be used for training can be spun. It is an essential requirement for the training of R.A.F. Pilots.

There are definite advantages to a pupil in learning to spin before going solo. He is not likely, however, to get into an unintentional spin on his first solo flight. Learning to spin will sharpen the pupil’s perception of an incipient stall, and will enable him to apply the correct remedies immediately and before any harm is done. A knowledge of spinning will remove any fear the pupil might have of the manoeuvre, and will therefore increase his confidence in himself.

Spinning for the first time as a passenger may be rather impressive, or thrilling, but any antipathy to the unusual movement generally disappears once the pupil has performed one or two spins himself.

For a lesson on spinning the instructor will first tell the pupil to climb the aeroplane to about 3,000 feet. The instructor will then demonstrate a spin. Plenty of height is needed because height is rapidly lost in a spin and during the dive which always follows the correction of the spin.

A spin may be started in many ways. The conditions required to start a spin are that the aeroplane is stalled and that a turning tendency in the yawing direction is present. This turning tendency is generally supplied by the rudder, but on some aircraft it may be provided by the aileron drag when the stick is put over to one side. To demonstrate a spin the instructor will use the following procedure. First the throttle is closed: then the nose of the aeroplane is gradually raised by pulling the stick farther and farther backwards to stall the aeroplane. When things become quiet, and the aeroplane seems to be hovering, full left rudder is put on. (This will produce a spin to the left; right rudder would produce a spin to the right.) As left rudder is applied, the left wing drops, and a sinking sensation is experienced as the aeroplane lifts its tail and begins to swish round while descending rapidly. The stick must be held right back to maintain the spin. Handley Page slots do not prevent an aeroplane being spun in this manner.

To come out of the spin, opposite rudder (right, in the instance of a left-hand spin) is applied, and the stick is put slightly forward of central. As soon as the spin stops, the controls are centred as the aeroplane goes into a dive. The stick is now eased back to pull the machine gently out of the dive. The nose of the aeroplane climbs up to the horizon, and, as it reaches the normal position for level flight, the stick is centred and the throttle opened up again.

A LEFT-HAND SPIN, showing the positions of the controls and the movement of the aeroplaneDifferent aeroplanes require different amounts of movement of the controls to bring them out of a spin. On some it is necessary to put on full opposite rudder, and also to put the stick well forward. But to do this on other aircraft would tend to start a spin in the opposite direction, or to put the machine into a dive which was beyond the vertical.

A LEFT-HAND SPIN, showing the positions of the controls and the movement of the aeroplane, with the pilot's views of the ground in the lower pictures. At A, the nose of the aeroplane is above the horizon as the spin is begun by applying full left rudder. B illustrates the position of the aeroplane when the controls are moved to stop the spin ; and C is where the aeroplane is just attaining level flight again.

When the pupil himself attempts a spin, he will be told to bring the machine out of the spin after half, one or two turns. He should note the altimeter reading before and after a spin to see how much height is lost. He will then realize why a spin at low altitude can be so dangerous. The ground may be hit before an aeroplane can be pulled out of the dive which follows the spin. It is unlikely that a spin would be unintentionally produced in the manner already described. An unintentional spin is much more likely to be the result of a badly executed turn with or without engine. For this reason the pupil should learn to begin a spin in this way. A medium turn, with or without engine, is begun, and far too much rudder is applied. This causes the nose to drop. The nose is then kept up by applying more and more backwards pull on the stick. Eventually the machine spins. The same method as that already described is used to stop the spin, the throttle being closed during the resultant dive.

In a turn which results in a spin, the controls are said to be opposed. One control, the elevators in this instance, is trying to prevent another control, the rudder, from having an effect on the machine’s attitude. Any situation in which controls are strongly opposed is likely to produce a spin. The sideslip is an instance. Here the controls are slightly opposed intentionally. If the sideslip is made too steep and at the same time too slow, by pulling the stick too far back, a spin in the opposite direction to the sideslip will begin.

Because of their high inherent stability some of the lighter types of machines used for instruction will not spin, or else they require expert handling to force them into a spin. On others it is not intended that a spin should be attempted. In all three of these instances, however, if the aeroplanes are kept stalled, an effect is produced which has to be explained to the pupil before he flies solo.

First the machine is stalled in the manner already described. But when the nose is raised and the machine begins to sink, no rudder is applied, and the wings are kept level by coarse use of the ailerons. As the aeroplane sinks, with the stick held back the whole time, the nose will become lower until a mild dive occurs. As soon as sufficient speed is attained in this dive, the elevators, which are being held up the whole time, will regain their effect and again force the nose of the machine up into a stall.

These alternate stalls and dives will continue while the stick is held well back and the wings are kept level. The reason for demonstrating this manoeuvre to the pupil is to illustrate why a prolonged stall near the ground is dangerous. The ground may be hit during the dive which results from a stall before flying speed, and therefore full control of the aeroplane is regained. It is the weight of the engine which causes the nose to drop and pulls the machine into a dive after it has been stalled.

The pupil will be expected to have passed his medical test before he flies solo. It is best to pass this before he begins instruction; then, in the event of failure, time and money will have been saved. It is most unusual for a pupil to be told, until the time of the flight itself, that he is to fly solo. Thus he is saved needless anticipatory worry. The first solo is an experience that follows somewhat similar lines with all pupils. It is a vital occasion in the tuition of a pilot.

No Time for Nerves

The instructor chooses a fine day for sending a pupil on his first solo flight. Obviously, the wind must be no more than a gentle breeze. The instructor selects a time when the aerodrome is quiet, and when there is no chance of other machines distracting his pupil. Apart from these considerations a time must be picked when the pupil is “on form” and making consistently good landings.

Although some pupils seem to anticipate the approach of their first solo, the actual moment of its arrival is generally a surprise to them. One day the pupil will have taxied into position for a take-off when, instead of the usual, “Right. Off you go”, being heard in the phones, he will see the instructor climbing out of the front cockpit. With this will come the realization that he is to be sent solo, and he is a very stolid pupil who does not find his pulse quicken slightly. Before he has time to worry about his forthcoming test, the instructor will be standing beside his cockpit and saying, “Now you go and do one on your own. If you have any doubts when coming in, just open up the engine and go round again. After landing taxi-in slowly.”

The great moment has come. It is the culmination of many hours of concentration and of anticipation. Any feelings of doubt that arise will vanish as the pupil pushes open the throttle and the aeroplane gathers speed. The climb after the take-off will be more rapid because of the removal of the instructor’s weight. The absence of the head in the front cockpit will cause the pupil to think, “Well, it’s up to me this time.” Thereafter he will be too busy with his task for nervousness, or jubilation, or for any other emotion.

Belgian Tipsy single-seat monoplane

THE DIFFICULTY THAT MAY BE EXPERIENCED in having to select a suitable field for a forced landing is clearly shown in this illustration. The flying pupil should always endeavour to have in view a field which would permit a safe forced landing to be made. The higher a machine is flying the greater is the number of fields from which the pilot may make his selection. The aeroplane shown in this picture is a Belgian Tipsy single-seat monoplane with flat twin engine.

The pupil turns across wind, closes the throttle, pulls back the trimming gear and puts his machine into a glide. Now he is at the right height to turn into wind. Then the ground is beginning to get near, back comes the stick slightly, a little more, and then still more, until with a gentle bump the aeroplane is running along the ground. He has made a successful first solo. Now is the time he may feel jubilation or exultation; that is why the instructor told him to “taxi-in slowly” after he has landed.

The flight will have lasted only about five minutes, but pupils find that the concentration required has been a nervous strain. If a pupil flies any more that day, it is unlikely that he will be sent solo again.

After his first solo, the pupil will receive a considerable amount of further dual flying. He still has much to learn during advanced dual instruction. It is also necessary for the instructor to check the pupil’s flying each day before allowing him to go solo. Early solo flights, which will not last much over thirty minutes, will be spent partly in preparation for the practical tests for the “A” licence. The dual flying will be partly taken up in forced landing practice.

Forced landings are seldom necessary these days because of the high degree of reliability of the modern aero engine. But it is necessary to be prepared for the thousandth chance. A forced landing is but little different from the normal landing the pupil has been taught. It is the circumstances in which the forced landing has to be performed that makes it difficult. If the pilot keeps calm, however, and remembers a few important rules, he will come to no harm.

The most dangerous time for an engine to cut out is when the aeroplane is just climbing over the aerodrome boundary after a take-off. The strong temptation to make a 180 degrees turn to endeavour to get back on to the aerodrome must be resisted. The aeroplane, because it is climbing when the engine cuts out, will tend to stall almost immediately. This is counteracted by putting the nose down immediately the engine trouble begins and thus gaining gliding speed. Height is lost in this manoeuvre. The danger of turning back lies in the fact that in trying to keep what little height the aeroplane has, there is every likelihood of a stall occurring. The only safe procedure in the circumstances described is to make the most of any facilities that the ground ahead offers for a forced landing. A small turn towards the right or left is permissible.

The reasons for having the longest possible run when taking off are threefold. There will be no danger of misjudging the distance required for the aeroplane to rise sufficiently to clear any obstacles on the aerodrome boundary; there will be a good chance of landing again on the aerodrome if the engine cuts out immediately after the take-off; and the aeroplane will have gained the maximum possible height before crossing the boundary of the aerodrome.

The first requirement of a forced lauding is to put the aeroplane into a glide. The second is to note the direction of the wind from any smoke that is rising; but there may be no smoke visible. For this reason, the pilot should always bear in mind the approximate direction of the wind in relation to the sun, to the direction in which he is flying, or to the compass (when this instrument has been explained to him). The third requirement is to pick a suitable field.

Making a Forced Landing

This need not be wide so long as it has a fair length in the approximate direction of the wind. The pilot then gets to leeward of the field and approaches it with a tendency to overshoot it. Surplus height may be lost by S turns at first and finally, by side-slipping, but sight of the field should never be lost, nor should the pilot turn directly away from it.

The picking of suitable fields requires practice, for they must not have too much of a slope, should not contain high crops or root crops if other fields are available, and should be free of cattle, power lines and fences. Furthermore, the surface should be reasonably smooth. Pasture fields, generally suitable, have a dark green colour. Until a pilot has had many hours of flying

experience, he will be wise to watch for any fields that seem suitable for a forced landing.

Having had all the above explained to him before practising forced landings, the pupil may think a safe forced landing altogether beyond him. He will not find it so difficult when he tries it for himself in the air, although instruction in forced landings will bring home to him that, having gone solo, he is still far from an accomplished pilot. At times, when flying with the pupil, the instructor will suddenly close the throttle. It is then up to the pupil to carry on as though he has to make a forced landing. Generally, the pupil will not land the machine, for the instructor will open the throttle again when the machine is a few feet from the ground. The approach and not the final landing is the important part of a forced landing.

B.A. Swallow Mark II two seat monoplane

ONE OF THE EASIEST LIGHT AEROPLANES TO FLY, the B.A. Swallow Mark II two seat monoplane with 80-90 horse-power Pobjoy Cataract III engine. Although the cruising speed is 92 miles an hour, the landing speed is only thirty miles an hour. The wings and fuselage are covered with plywood. Machines of this type are often used for training purposes.

The most tricky practice landing, from the pupil’s point of view, is probably that when the instructor closes the throttle after a take-off while the aeroplane is only six to ten feet high. Because the machine is climbing it is necessary to put the stick well forward to gain speed. Then, almost immediately, the stick must be pulled back to bring the aeroplane level before the ground is hit. And as soon as the levelling movement is made the pupil has to continue with a normal landing. Rapid and exact operation of the controls is required. There is no room for mistakes. If the pupil can perform such a forced landing satisfactorily after two or three practice attempts, it shows that he thoroughly understands the use of the controls, and that he has attained a sense of “ feel ” of the aeroplane.

When the pupil has put in an hour or two solo, the instructor will prepare him for the practical flying tests necessary for obtaining the “A” licence. Legally this licence permits the pilot to fly anywhere and to carry passengers so long as he is not paid to do so. But considerably more experience will be required before the instructor will permit the pupil to carry passengers or to go on cross-country flights.

There are two practical tests, and the pupil will first practise them with the instructor. One requires a landing to be made from a height of at least 2,000 feet, to end within 150 yards of a specified point and without the use of the engine on the descent. S turns will be used to lose height as necessary. During the actual test a sealed barograph is carried which indicates the height attained and also the constancy of the climb and of the glide down. It is advisable in this test for the pupil to climb until his altimeter shows two or three hundred feet above 2,000 feet, to be sure that the barograph chart will show ample height. Before taking off, the pupil must remember to check that the altimeter is set to zero. At intervals during the downward glide, say every five hundred feet, the engine has to be opened up for a second or two - not more. The object of this is to ensure that any possibility of plugs oiling up will be removed. Then, if the engine is needed at a critical moment because of a bad landing, it will respond immediately. Care has to be taken not to let the nose rise, as it will try to do, when the engine is opened up. Such a rise would show on the barograph chart. This practice of “giving a touch of engine” at intervals during a long glide must be adopted in all flying.

In the second test, five figures of 8 have to be flown round two points 500 yards apart and at a height of not more than 600 feet. After completion of the fifth figure of 8, a landing must be made within a distance of 50 yards from a previously chosen point, with the throttle closed before the machine touches the ground. These two tests are flown solo.

Three hours solo flying are required for the “A” licence, and they may include the time taken by the tests. It is usual for a pupil to apply for a Royal Aero Club certificate first, because, then his own instructor can generally act as observer for the tests. This certificate is accepted as sufficient grounds for the issue of an “A” licence.

The pupil has also to pass a theoretical test. This concerns the Air Navigation Regulations and Rules for Air Traffic, and International Air Legislation. The examination is an oral one, and again may be conducted by the instructor. Sixty per cent marks are required for a pass.

Having completed the tests, the pupil will in due course receive his licence. Until this arrives he is not entitled to fly outside of a radius three miles from the aerodrome. The obtaining of an “A” licence, like the first solo flight, marks an important stage in the pupil’s progress. And that is the best way for him to consider it. He should not feel that he is now a fully qualified pilot, for he still has much more to learn.

For some time yet the pupil will be closely watched and guided in his flying by the instructor. He will also receive more dual instruction. This will be largely taken up by further practice in forced landings, by map reading and by the elementary use of the compass.

The pupil will be wise to fly regularly at this stage of his progress. He will thus gain the most benefit from his flying. If he introduces breaks of three or four weeks into his flying, it will take him half an hour or more in the air to get into practice again. And until he is in practice again, he cannot progress further. Later, when he has accumulated more hours’ flying, such breaks will matter less, although the occasional flier will never develop quite the same “touch” as one who flies regularly.

There may be a temptation to treat early solo flights as mere “joy flights” around the vicinity of the aerodrome. This should be avoided as much as possible, and the pupil should practise some definite manoeuvre such as a steep turn, spinning, or approaches and landings from different heights.


DE HAVILLAND MOTH AEROPLANE MAKING A TURN. Two-seater biplanes of this type have been used in some flying clubs and schools for many years. Several versions of this machine have been made from time to time, including the Cirrus Moth, Gipsy Moth, Moth Major and Tiger Moth, the latest type. The aircraft in the picture is one of the earlier versions with tyres of the high-pressure types instead of the modern low-pressure tyres.

[From Part 13, published 31 May 1938]

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