Fiona Macaskill: Spin Training Scholarship Winner

British scholarship winner Fiona Macaskill was the lucky recipient of Catherine Cavagnaro’s Spin Training scholarship. Fiona is from Olvestoon, UK and recently completed her training in Swanee, Tennessee.

Many thanks to Fiona for writing the following article detailing her flying experience and what spin training with Catherine is all about.

Catherine Cavagnaro & Fiona Macaskill

Travelling from England to Tennessee to do a spin course was a dream come true. When LadiesLoveTaildraggers awarded me the scholarship for the advanced spin course with Catherine Cavagnaro I was thrilled and immediately started to plan the trip. My husband, Angus, who is also a pilot, wanted to come with me and if possible, pay to do the same course if time permitted. As it turned out, the weather and time only allowed me to complete the practical side of the course but we both did the theoretical element together which was really helpful.

Fiona and Angus at Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Alabama

I have always enjoyed taking on challenges. In one of my former lives I flew paragliders (without an engine), competed all over the world, logged 2,000 hours & got four FAI world paraglider records. So, having learnt to fly flying a light aircraft five years ago and now logged 700 hours I thought it
worth applying for a scholarship as learning to spin (and get out of a spin) seemed like a very good idea. I was very grateful and excited to be awarded the scholarship and found the whole experience very worthwhile.

The course took place over two half days: this was due to inclement weather but proved better than doing everything in one day. Catherine gave two very well-prepared lectures, covering the principles of flight, stalls & spins. Although I already knew about these things in theory (you can’t get your PPL if you don’t) her delivery of the principles made it all very clear and easy to understand.

For me, getting into a spin was probably harder than getting out of one: almost all my training to date has been about how to avoid stalling and spinning. It was difficult to go against my basic survival instincts to pull the aircraft into a stall & then deliberately spin. Once the spin was established, closing the throttle, applying pressure on the rudder in the opposite direction to the turn and pushing the nose down soon arrested the rotation and brought ‘Wilbur’, Catherine’s C152A, into a nose down attitude without any rotation. Once this is established and you are heading straight for the ground, all one needs to do is pull the nose up and control the speed with the throttle. It sounds quite easy when described. When you add disorientation, looking at all the instruments, the ‘fear’ factor and G force when pulling out (the actual spin is only 1 G but the pull out can be 3 G) it becomes somewhat more challenging!

The first flight was a familiarization exercise followed by a few uncontrolled stalls practicing skidding & slipping & some two turn spins. The aircraft handled well and easily recovered. Once the spin was established (after three turns) more input was required to recover so I practiced several of these and became comfortable doing so.

We returned to base for a de-brief and to discuss the next flight: more 3 turn spins and then ‘the big one’… we climbed to 9,500 (8,500 feet above surface). I put the aircraft into the spin (‘easy’!), held it and Catherine started counting 1… 2 …… 19… 20 … Though not at all disorientated, it felt like the ground was coming up fast and that it was time to pull out. I applied all my new-found skills and it pulled out easily. Once flying straight & level I saw the altimeter was at 4,000 ft – we had plenty of spare height after all. The sun was setting, my heart was beating a little faster than usual and it was time to return to Sewanee.

The whole one-week trip was very memorable: our host, Sharon Tinkler, (who lives on an air park next to Tullahoma regional airport, TN) was very generous with her time and hospitality. It was fascinating to share our different cultures and perceptions & see the region.

Angus, Sharon & Fiona at Huntsville

I am most grateful to Ladies Love Taildraggers & Judy Bircher for enabling the training & thoroughly recommend other ladies to stretch themselves and extend their flying in areas they have not yet ‘got around to’. Thank you, again to Judy, Catherine and Sharon – you are all STARS!

Fiona, “Jack Daniels”, Sharon & Angus, Lynchburg, Tennessee, home of Jack Daniels Whiskey, a must see for Tennessee visitors!

Many thanks to Sharon Tinkler for hosting the Macaskill’s during their Tennessee USA stay and of course to Catherine Cavagnaro for making it all possible.

1 Comment
  • Karen Kirkpatrick
    Posted at 14:15h, 11 February Reply

    Congratulations and you aced it! Thank you for the upload! I have really enjoyed your article and hope you enjoyed the hospitality of my fellow Tennesseans as that is where I was born. Such a great video and tends to make one dizzy! Have a safe trip home to the UK! Good luck with Brexit!

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