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One down at Jimboomba (SEQ)

Old 6th Oct 2018, 05:39
  #61 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Brisbane, Oz
Age: 78
Posts: 46
A confession.

This forum, and this time, and this horrible accident may be a time & place for me to do a bit of truth-telling, finally, after bottling this up for close-on 60 years now.

In the late fifties I started on my private licence at RACSA, who then flew a fleet of Chipmunks. I was then a ground-radio ‘erk in the RAAF, over at Edinburgh. Buying lessons, I had gone solo, with about 18-20 hours up. This day I was tasked with solo practice steep-turns & stalls, over Parafield.

I *loved* spinning. After my task was completed to my satisfaction (two steep turns, left & right (tick, clearing turns, eh?) then two stalls & recover, I considered my duty done, and being at 5,000’ decided a practice spin was in order, solo for the first time.

Long before all this, I remember the fear in my mother’s voice when I announced I was going to learn to fly on the Chipmunk: Her instant reply was ‘Oh God! Be careful. They spin so easily and badly, and there have been so many people injured & killed in spinning accidents in them!’ (Paraphrased. Tone & info accurate. She not a pilot, but smart.) Child’s response: Don’t you worry Mum, I won’t let that happen to me. <sigh>

Can we pause another second for a second back story? A few months prior to my incident (below) I had discovered my RAAF station’s library. It included this amazing collection of flight-operations publications! Pilots notes on so many types, nav. theory tomes, and best of all a copy of the AP 1234. It was a thick loose leaf manual. Think an all-encompassing flight instructor’s training manual merged onto a basic aeronautical primer, very effectively. In that massive bag of wisdom was a discussion on spinning, it’s aerodynamic complexities and the difficulty then (and now) of calculating how a new aircraft will spin, There were notes on various aircraft’s spinning characteristics and associated recovery techniques. It ended with an extended discussion of the Tempest II, it being a particularly nasty beast. It had a willingness to flick into to a flat spin off a deliberate slipped turn in combat, and a special technique was required to recover from that. (The technique was worked out after *many fatalities in ops. & training. The II was withdrawn and replaced by the Tempest V, as soon as it was operation.)

The technique needed was to maintain full opposite rudder, but to trigger & develop an unusual form of a short-period mode, phugoid oscillation(1) fore & aft, (not called that then) by pumping throttle open and applying full forward stick simultaneously, then throttle closed and some back stick, and repeat, synching as soon as possible with a developing cyclic nodding frequency and working to amplify it. When successful, the aircraft would suddenly pick forward into a normal spin. Recover from that. IIRC it required 12,000’ *min* to recover. Below that height bailing out was the only solution. Noted. Also noted: the lack of a parachute in my training aircraft.

So, still at 5,000, and after another clearing steep turn, it’s slow down and into a left spin. This time I didn’t do the instant recovery pupils usually practiced, but sat back and enjoyed how everything quietened down, the pitch angle reduced to only about 8-10° nose down, ASI flickering near zero, and I even (FFS) unlatched the canopy, slid it back until I could sit there with my elbows outside. Hand outside. Puffs of breeze. Lovely. The perfect spin.

So about 3,600 I did spin recovery.


I recall turning around to check which side the rudder was displaced and comparing it to the direction of rotation. Mentally tracing the cables to the rudder bar and how I had it displaced. Mentally check my lefts and my rights. All OK. Reapplied all control displacements carefully. Turn after turn after turn. Nope. And then I suddenly recalled the Tempest II discussion. Released all controls. Carefully re-applied correct rudder, briefly full throttle and full fwd stick and it nodded! did it again and again and then the fourth time the Chippy just rolled fwd out of the spin into gentle dive so normal spin recovery and at about 1,900’ I was finally climbing away. Far below the base of the aerobatic training area. Very close to the circuit. Very shaken.

Baffled but curious I suppose, I tentatively climbed back to 5,000’ and after a long pause to gather my wits, I very carefully did it again. Yes it went into a normal nose low rough and buffeting spin, but at about 2.5 turns the nose rose smoothly but quickly to the flat smooth stable spin attitude. One turn to watch how stable it was, then into the Tempest recovery, and I climbed away just above 4,000’.

A slightly calmer third trip to 5,000’ and this time a right spin, to see if that affected anything, and it was all same-same, so an even quicker recovery.

A shaken pilot quietly joined the circuit, and after refuelling went into the flight office to face the music. There was no-one there! CFI, manager, other instructors? No-one. I stood at that desk, over the aircraft’s log for 15-20 minutes, an eighteen year old with no idea what to do next. I knew I couldn’t possibly write up the Chippy as ‘won’t come out of a spin’, could I. (I was a *ground radio erk at the time, no other aircraft knowledge, and didn’t know the power of a tech report in an aircraft’s made log by a pilot.)

To my shame, to this day, I finally decided that,
1) the aircraft behaviour must have been normal, and that’s why we are taught to take quick recovery action, &
2) yes, you can’t report an aircraft for doing what an aircraft does normally, and mainly
3) I’d get into strife if ‘they’ knew I was spinning when I was supposed to (just?) do stalls and spins.

So home to barracks, back to the library to reread that chapter, and check whether I did it right. All good. In a way. Ah. The stupidity of youth, in spite of huge confidence levels!

About three weeks later, a slip of a lass with a heavier instructor in the back seat, spun the same aircraft into a paddock just off airport.

He had a very sore back for a long time. Her life was shattered. She was/has been confined to a wheelchair since then. DHC-2 Chipmunks fold up at the front cockpit on impact after a flat spin-in, frequently crushing the occupant. I can’t recall her name.

And this is the first time this shameful gutless person has ever admitted to what I did.

Now, perhaps, this snippet of knowledge *may help someone in the future. Some instructors may include the info into their briefings. Pilots new to the game who hear of this might understand that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. If it is right, you’ll have an interesting discussion with other pilots and ground engineers, and come away smarter. There is no such think as a stupid question, or a ignorant mistake.

Who knows: It *may* have helped this instructor and his pupil be here still.

The cause of the problem spinning-behaviour in ‘my’ aircraft?

The tailplane rigging was out by less than 1°. An air-framie-fix, in no time. Easy & quick.

All it would have taken to save those two people and an aircraft were a few words in the log. Like this: (1st item-the problem) ‘Spins flat. Won’t recover normally’ (…then any other info.)

May the Gods, and that damaged lass forgive me my cowardice. May this confession help in my forgiveness by others.

Qld, Oct 2018

(1) See discussion at
JenCluse is offline  
Old 6th Oct 2018, 05:42
  #62 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Brisbane, Oz
Age: 78
Posts: 46
Sorry. Don't blame you if that last post of mine is Too Long: Didn't read. It needs a bigger font for so much massed text. I should have written a book, eh?
JenCluse is offline  
Old 6th Oct 2018, 05:53
  #63 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 303
Thank you JenCluse - confessions are never easy - you have my admiration.
Well before my time at the Port Lincoln Flying Club they also trained in Chipmunks. I believe a similar (fatal ?) accident happened near Tumby Bay but I have no details.

Having done more research it appears I was wrong. Both accidents (yes two within a fortnight near Tumby Bay one of which had one fatality) were not as a result of spinning occurrences. Both however make interesting reading.

Last edited by On eyre; 6th Oct 2018 at 06:25.
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Old 6th Oct 2018, 06:15
  #64 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 845
Originally Posted by JenCluse View Post
Sorry. Don't blame you if that last post of mine is Too Long: Didn't read. It needs a bigger font for so much massed text. I should have written a book, eh?
Thanks for posting that. Not too long at all. It will potentially help others.

You were not to know about Chipmunk issues, and we all at that age would have been daunted by reporting it, especially when no one there to talk to.

There is a PPRuNe thread on Chipmunk Spinning that it may also be good to post it in.

ATSB Report on Chipmunk Spinning Accident

The ATSB report (below) has a very interesting addendum at end - an extensive test pilot evaluation of Chipmunk Spinning (in response to various reports from UK and Australia about difficulty recovering from spin in Chipmunk). Concludes with the need to apply standard recovery technique, including ensuring control column trully FULLY forward, and maintain that input UNCHANGED till spin stops, which may take many turns after full recovery control position applied. Mistake apparently is either control column inadvertently not full forward due aerodynamic resistance in last part of travel in spin, and/or after applying proper recovery technique, too early thinking it is not working and thus moving controls to a different position due disconcerting thought aircraft is not recovering in a turn or two.

Last edited by rjtjrt; 6th Oct 2018 at 10:13.
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Old 6th Oct 2018, 07:13
  #65 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2002
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 1,033
I agree with rjtjrt, it would be good to have this with that other Chipmunk spin discussion or, even better, a new discussion thread. Thanks for posting it, JenCluse. It is important for people to know that things can go wrong in spins. Now I know where that advice on rocking to get out of a flat spin comes from, good to hear that it worked for you; other actions are more appropriate in types that I fly.
djpil is offline  
Old 6th Oct 2018, 09:51
  #66 (permalink)  
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Australia
Posts: 845
I recall reading that RAF at one stage, re Chipmunk flat spin not recovering, recommended the throttle idea, and as last resort openning canopy and standing up in cockpit in order to alter airflow at rear of aircraft - worth remembering they wore a parachute as a routine!
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 02:40
  #67 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: Brisbane, Oz
Age: 78
Posts: 46
Thanks for your thoughtful replies - esp rjtjrt and your . . . "and we all at that age would have been daunted by reporting it".

Age is nice to have on board, isn't it. Few of us have much wisdom in youth.

I shall follow the many recommends to re-post over at Chipmunk spinning. There are so many corners of PPRuNe to visit, and so little time

Thanks all for the so-valued rational discussions at this board. A rare pleasure on the 'net.

JenCluse is offline  
Old 14th Oct 2018, 05:40
  #68 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: N/A
Posts: 2,814
a slip of a lass with a heavier instructor in the back seat
And probably therein lay the problem, aft CoG. Also learnt on the Chippy early '60's, and it was drilled into us about the spin characteristics and the necessity to hold the stipulated recovery as it took a time to do its work. Also drilled was not to start trying something else because you thought it was taking too long.
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Old 14th Oct 2018, 10:12
  #69 (permalink)  
Join Date: Mar 2018
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 302

I read your commendable post and would like to applaud you for coming forward with this. This experience seems to have had a marked impact on your life and I'd assume that you finding the right words must have been a long exercise. Still people, men I'd venture to say, and pilots not least, seem to mistake that admitting to a wrong equates weakness. On the contrary, I find it rather exemplary behavior. I am myself closer to the age you were yourself when those events took place which is maybe why your post made me wonder what I'd have done in your stead. It's fair to assume that you first expected to get a cold shower from your CFI when you landed and were somewhat happy to ``get away with it''. Maybe therein lies the problem. Things we hear all the time such as "don't get into clouds, don't do this, don't do that, ..." are all stigmatizing enough so when fresh pilots make mistakes, the prevailing culture of fear and punishment is obviously not promoting openness – much to everyone's expense.

Also, back in the 50s the world was a different place I'd assume. I can only speak for how much it's changed in the last 15 years and still, in this day and age, aerodromes, flight schools, pilot lounges still are all rife with vanity.

Would an entry in the aircraft logbook have meant a different outcome for the other two occupants? Perhaps. And carrying training spins in a different aircraft? Probably too. An instructor sitting at the front changing CoG and taking over controls when the recovery technique didn't seem to work? Most likely. How about this: a staffed flight school with an instructor to debrief you when you got back from your flight then? There might be a chance that you'd have more easily voiced your experience than pen it.

I don't know who you are but you strike me as a curious and intelligent individual and my guess is that it is rather these very qualities that got you out of those spins three times around. Don't let the weight of those 60 years be too harsh on your 18-year-old self, you're not responsible for their fate and you've done a great job raising awareness today.
Okihara is offline  
Old 14th Oct 2018, 19:36
  #70 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: SE Qld, Australia
Age: 73
Posts: 936
The ATSB report (below) has a very interesting addendum at end
It's worth pointing out that this addendum was also posted out, at the time, to all Chipmunk owners/operators as a letter from D.G. Anderson (the Director of DCA) himself.

I have posted at length about this accident (and I'm STILL appalled at the instructors' lack of knowledge - despite all that's been written over the years - of Chipmunk spinning).
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Old 22nd May 2019, 10:54
  #71 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Cab of a Freight Train
Age: 36
Posts: 418
Final report is out. Practice RPL flight test including recovery from incipient spins in an aircraft not designed for it. For undetermined reasons recovery was not completed/possible prior to impact after entering a fully developed spin.

One thing I noted though - the aircraft had a G1000, but no datalogger card. WTF not? They're simple SD cards for that aren't they? Even for debriefing students later it would have been beneficial.
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Old 22nd May 2019, 11:09
  #72 (permalink)  
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Posts: 7,388
kraviator, probably no g1000 data card because it can be used by CASA to punish you. people including instructors, do stupid stuff in aircraft sometimes and don’t wish to leave evidence.
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Old 22nd May 2019, 12:13
  #73 (permalink)  
Join Date: Jun 2001
Location: FNQ ... Still!
Posts: 3,340
people including instructors, do stupid stuff in aircraft sometimes and don’t wish to leave evidence.
Really? Don’t keep us in suspense any longer!
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Old 22nd May 2019, 12:48
  #74 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Brisbane, Qld
Posts: 1,139
I hate reports like this, no blame apportioned to the ATSB by my saying that, there simply isn't enough information to really know why it happened but losing 2 lives is bad enough, losing 2 lives for no apparent reason is just salt in the wound.

I know there will be quite a few people around Archy who knew the instructor involved at varying levels and will hear about this report and find no real solace from it, if you're reading this, don't despair but if you do find yourself in a bad place then please talk to someone about it, that's what he would have wanted. There might not be any particular lesson to be learned here so use it to take a chance and reflect on yourselves and any areas you think you can improve in then go about working on it.
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Old 23rd May 2019, 09:41
  #75 (permalink)  
Join Date: Sep 2018
Location: Melbourne
Posts: 484
So sad and so unesesary -
i hope others out there both instructors and students can learn from their mistakes.
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