“Idle Neutral Aft
Needle Left, spinning left
Right full rudder.
Here come the Gs”
Recovery. It’s absurd I still remember this.
What you just read is the recovery procedure for a T-37 Tweet in a stall induced spin. I was not a good pilot, so the Air Force found something else to do with me, and it was the best thing that could have happened. Why is the subject of another entry.
Step one is to recognize you are in a spin. It’s usually pretty easy. We practiced recovery after deliberately inducing spins. It was actually incredibly fun. You would arrive in the practice area, climb to a recoverable, safe altitude, and stall the aircraft by introducing an excessive angle of attack. Pull back the throttle and wait for air to cease flowing over the top of the wing. As the aircraft began to shake, you would step on the rudder and the Tweet would flip on its back as the nose plummeted to earth.
You could go left of right. But if you chose left, you had the added centrifugal force of the spinning engines and the introduction of spin hit harder.
I always chose left.
But the purpose of the exercise was to practice if it occurred in real life. Your awareness may not be the same. Or you didn’t expect it. But once you realized it, the steps had to come second nature.
I have been having a lot of fun this past years, but I did so at the expense of a lot of other things. Things I enjoy and at the expense of people I love.
I fear that even though it was fun, my life might have insidiously entered a spin.
Step 1 is identification.
Step 2 is apply corrective action.
Idle. Neutral. Aft.
Reduce the engine thrust to idle. This is to allow the craft to start from a baseline step and ensure there is no propulsion mucking up the recovery. I have been driving forward, but I started wondered toward what. If you can’t answer that question, it’s probably time to back off the gas.
Put the stick center. Neutral. This ensures the next actions all start from the same location, so the measures you apply have the same effect. Despite playing with supercars all day I had been foul and short-tempered with those in my life. I had to sit down and ask my self why. I went to neutral. I looked back at challenging points in my life, some of them I simply laughed and plowed on through, others made me as agitated as I have been lately. I had to examine the similarities of my daily activities and the differences. What did I do then that I am not doing now?
Then you pull the stick aft. Back. This gets the ailerons to start redirecting air over their surface. It will make you stop plummeting straight down. But it’s not enough.
Needle left, spinning left.
On the gauge panel was a spin indicator. It’s job was simple, to tell you which way the jet was spinning. You had to know this, or the next corrective action would make it worse.
Right Full Rudder.
Stop the spin. Do the opposite of what put you in a spin. Full rudder, no half measures. This is not a subtle movement. It is commitment. The manual said one rotation, in Oklahoma it was easy, you picked one of the east/west or north/south roads and referenced them to see when the spin was arrested. But because I always went left, it usually took 1 and 1/4.
Often I make my life harder than I should. Sometimes because that’s the more fun route, often because I am stubborn, and usually a combination of both. I lost control of my schedule. Not to the point where I missed a dental checkup. No it went well beyond that. I missed major events. The birth of my best friends first son. My anniversary, and last April, a race. A big one on a historic course I have wanted to drive for years.
I had been looking forward to the season opener of AER at Watkins Glen since last October. I also completely failed to honor an obligation in LeMons regarding the Nash former Statesman and now Rambler. Literally on one Friday I got a text from a friend asking me when my flight landed. The realization of my errors hit me like a brick.
I was well into a spin.
So I am looking at my reference points, and lining up the cues to see when this spin has stopped and I have control again.
I had not written anything this year. It’s summer. I have a phone full of ideas, and a patient editor waited on a substantial piece I promised for months. Ultimately he had to reject it, so up until last month, nothing was published with my name.
One of the reasons I chose this path was to write. What the hell am a doing? Racing? I have attended one race this year and missed another.
Once the spin stopped, and you had airflow over the surfaces and you had stopped pointing to earth. Slowly apply thrust, and the jet would regain altitude and start flying instead of falling. This action would induces G forces. If you weren’t used to it, you needed to practice your G Exercises, or “G-Ex” to keep from passing out as the blood was forced from your brain into your feet. You vocalized this as a warning to both your passenger, and a reminder to yourself. If you pass out during recovery, all of that action was for naught.
I fear the reason for this spin is the same reason I was never a pilot. Target fixation. I was always OK as long as everything in the cockpit was fine. But once a gauge veered outside of the correct parameters, I was lock my attention on it at the expense of everything else. I have been so focused on myself, I am missing why I did it at the start.
A buddy on Facebook posted herself doing 22 Push-ups for Veteran Suicide awareness. I took the challenge and you can keep your comments about FB fads to yourself. In my case it worked. I started looking outside my cockpit again. By looking outside I broke the target fixation.
So now I have applied action, hopefully stopped the spin, it’s time for me to apply thrust. To recover. It’s starting with some major career and personal changes. It’s getting back to what I know, what I do and those I love.
Here come the Gs.