This is my first time flying a Cessna 172 and the first time I’ve done spins. It used to be part of every pilot’s training, but these days pilots are taught to recognize and prevent a stall before it turns into a spin.

In order to do spins, my instructor and I had to do some prep work on the plane, including removing or strapping down anything loose in the cabin and reducing the weight so it could be flown in the Utility category. That meant making sure the weight and balance point fell within the red box.

Illustration for article titled Going for a little spin.

With my tubby frame and my instructor on board, we could carry no more than 22 gallons of fuel.

There are four phases to a spin - entry, incipient, developed, and recovery. We started with me doing a stall to get the feel of the plane, then we repeated the maneuver through each phase until I was spinning on my own.

We didn’t have much time to play. It takes about 15 minutes to get out from under the controlled airspace for Bush Intercontinental Airport. We normally don’t have to go out that far, but when practicing spins, you want plenty of altitude to work with. We were flying at about 6,500 feet. Normal cruise fuel burn rate is about 8.5 gph, but when you’re doing maneuvers, the burn rate is closer to 10 gph. To maintain half an hour of reserve, we could spend about an hour and 45 minutes in the air. With 30 minutes of travel time, we had an hour or so to practice spins and another half an hour to practice landings back at the airport.


I didn’t need that much time.

Three spins was just about enough for me. While my instructor can do spins all day, it’s going to take some time for me to get to that level without losing my lunch. I was starting to get a bit queasy after three and last few were pushing it. My instructor wanted to do a few more, but I knew when to stop. That’s when we headed home.


I managed all three landings. Since it was my first time landing a 172, I wasn’t quite sure when the gear would touch and I bounced it a bit on the first one. The next two landings were much better!

The biggest problem I had with the Cessna was flying in the pattern. When turning, the wing dips, obscuring the pilot’s view of the runway. I had some trouble keeping track of my position relative to the runway, but it was easily corrected on final. Getting comfortable with a 172 opens up more opportunities to fly. That has to be a good thing!

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