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Q: Aviation aerobatics and specifically recovering from a spin ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   6 Comments )
Subject: Aviation aerobatics and specifically recovering from a spin
Category: Sports and Recreation
Asked by: aerobatics-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 26 Feb 2003 17:42 PST
Expires: 28 Mar 2003 17:42 PST
Question ID: 167616
Just prior to the 1st world war, a British aviator by the name of
Parke (Lt., I believe) worked out (first by necessity and then by
choice) how to recover a aircraft that had entered a spin. This was
referred to as Parke's dive or simply Parke dive. He was the first
aviator to survive a spin and then went on to figure out what he did
(in desperation) and repeated it. I need a historical account of this
amazing accomplishment. My source is verbal tradition among aviators
and Neil Williams 1975 book "Aerobatics"

Thanks in advance,

John Grinder

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 26 Feb 2003 18:11 PST
I don't have an answer for you, but I did find a tidbit of info that
may help another researcher in tracking this down:

History of spins

A test pilot, Wilfred Parke, was in a Roe Avro while making a
spiraling descent. He inadvertently entered a spin when he failed to
remove bank while applying backpressure. Parke made several power and
control changes without effect. Parke finally applied and held
opposite rudder. The aircraft recovered from the spin and entered a
dive. An aviation first.

A few months later he was killed, after engine failure, while turning
back to the runway. Apparently, knowing how to recover from a spin is
of no avail if you are not aware of the conditions and initiating
factors for spins.

Clarification of Question by aerobatics-ga on 02 Mar 2003 10:50 PST
May I thank the three contributors who have offered information that
bears on my questions although we have yet to identify an historical
description that details when, where and precisely how Parke did what
I have heard he did (accidently found himself in a spin configuration,
managed for the first time (in the stories I have heard for years from
former Neil Williams students) to restore and straight and level
attitude, landed, thought over what had occurred and then took off
again and deliberately put his aircraft in a spin to discover whether
he had worked it out correctly - he had and he did recover.

From the citations already contributed (thanks again), I am beginning
to suspect that the two stories of Parke and Lindemann have been
conflated. However, my question remains, Where can I find an
historical account of what Parke did (Parke's dive)?

All the best,

Subject: Re: Aviation aerobatics and specifically recovering from a spin
Answered By: byrd-ga on 02 Mar 2003 16:59 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hello John,

As a pilot myself, who has had a little training and experience in
aerobatics and spin recovery techniques, I was intrigued by your
question, though I came up as disappointingly empty on my own as the
other Researchers have.  So I emailed Rich Stowell with the question,
hoping he’d have some information on the subject.  Rich, as you may or
may not know, is a leading authority on aerobatics, spins and
emergency maneuvers training, widely known and respected not only for
the depth and breadth of his knowledge, but his ability to share that
knowledge with others through articles and books, reports, talks,
seminars, clinics and hands-on one-on-one flight training.  You can
read more about him and his credentials at his website, here:  as well as find much information about
aerobatics and spins.

Rich was good enough to reply, and quickly, and indeed had good
information on this subject, which he was generous enough to share. 
As a matter of fact, as he says, he is “in the process of finishing a
new book entitled, "The General Aviation Pilot's Guide to STALL/SPIN
AWARENESS" -- which takes an historic look at our understanding of
stall/spin phenomena over the last 100 years of powered flight.”  He
cited as his sources,

   "Flight Fantastic, The Illustrated History of Aerobatics," by
Annette Carson
   "Acrobats in the Sky," by John W. Underwood

The short answer to your question is that there is no historical
account of Parke’s Dive as you’ve described it because it didn’t
happen that way.  Stowell says, “To my knowledge, Parke never did
intentionally spin an airplane. That distinction seems to have been
given to pilot Harry Hawker. The first true scientific investigation
of spins was conducted by F.A. Lindemann.”  He then provided an
excerpt from Chapter Two of this new book, that directly pertains to
Parke’s Dive and your specific question.  It says,

" August 25, 1912
"A crowd gathers at Larkhill Aerodrome in Salisbury Plain, England for
the return of test pilot Lt. Wilfred Parke, who has just broken the
world endurance record in an Avro G cabin biplane. The Avro G has no
forward windscreen, requiring the pilot to look out sideways for
visual references. While spiralling down to land, the airplane
suddenly enters a left spin.

"Consistent with the prevailing theory on recovery from an apparent
sideslip, Parke responds by adding full power, pulling the control
wheel fully aft, and pressing the left rudder all the way to the stop.
Rotation earthward continues unabated. Spinning ever closer to the
ground, Parke perceives a force pushing him to the right. He releases
the control wheel to center himself in his seat, then applies full
right rudder. The airplane immediately pops out of the spin, levelling
off barely 50 feet above the stunned crowd! The event becomes known as
"Parke's Dive."

"Wilfred Parke is the first to identify the need to use opposite
rudder for spin recovery. His experience also highlights the fact that
spin recovery actions are contrary to our natural instincts; hence,
the appropriate response must be learned. Parke's Dive is chronicled
in the British publication, Flight, including the first-ever spin
recovery procedure: Apply rudder opposite to the direction of

"Soon after Parke's Dive, Parke test flies a Handley-Page monoplane.
The engine abruptly quits on takeoff. Attempting to turn back to the
airstrip, the aeroplane spins into the ground. The man first
responsible for uncovering one of the mysteries of spin recovery is
killed. In the span of a few short months, Wilfred Parke experiences
firsthand what remains the two most common stall/spin scenarios
plaguing general aviation. In Parke's case, his first encounter with a
spin in the traffic pattern is enlightening; his second encounter,

"June 1914
"Harry Hawker amazes onlookers by being the first to spin an aeroplane
deliberately. Following a debate with another aviator about the likely
spin recovery characteristics of a Sopwith Tabloid, Hawker climbs
aloft over Brooklands, England. He enters a power-off loop and falls
into a spin near the top of the maneuver. Hawker freezes on the
controls and the airplane augers into the trees. Incredibly, Hawker
emerges from the wreckage unscathed.

"Obsessed with recovering from a spin, Hawker takes to the air above
Brooklands a day or so later. He stalls the aeroplane and enters a
spin. After a couple of revolutions, Hawker centralizes the controls
and the airplane promptly recovers.

"Armed now with the knowledge about recovering from a spin, pilots use
it as an evasive maneuver during World War I. A spinning aeroplane
could lose height very quickly. By contrast, an enemy aeroplane would
be in jeopardy of structural failure if it pursued the spinning plane.

"At the battlefront in Europe, Farnborough FE.8's (four-bladed,
pusher-prop biplanes) are spinning into the ground. The machine
develops a bad reputation among service pilots. Even test pilot Frank
Courtney is surprised by an inadvertent spin during a routine test
flight in the aeroplane. Vaguely recalling Parke's Dive, he recovers
from the spin. This and the recurring accidents at the front spawn a
scientific spin research program at Farnborough, England.

"Flight tests conducted by Courtney, duplicated by Farnborough's Chief
Test Pilot Frank Goodden, exonerate the FE.8's design and point
instead to inadequacies in pilot training. The following spin recovery
actions become apparent from spin tests: switch off the engine, move
the elevator forward and neutralize the ailerons, centralize the

"Hot on the heels of the Courtney/Goodden tests, Dr. F.A. Lindemann
and others set into motion a scientific study of spin aerodynamics,
also at Farnborough. Spin tests -- which Lindemann refers to as
"spinning nose dives" -- are conducted primarily in a B.E.2E.
aeroplane. Lindemann personally performs an intentional spin entry and
recovery in each direction to test his theories. Subsequent tests are
recorded using a camera obscura. A report is published in March 1918
entitled, "The Experimental and Mathematical Investigation of
Spinning." The recommended spin recovery actions include:

"the rudder taken off gradually and the stick eased forward thus
turning the spin into a spiral. A more rapid method is to take off
rudder and push the stick forward ... without going through the spiral
stage." "

--Excerpted from The General Aviation Pilot's Guide to STALL/SPIN
AWARENESS by Rich Stowell

If anything isn’t clear, please do ask for clarification before rating
and closing the question, so I can be sure you’re satisfied with the
information provided.

Blue skies and best regards,

Clarification of Answer by byrd-ga on 03 Mar 2003 08:40 PST
Thank you very much for the generous rating and kind words.  I'm very
glad you were pleased with the answer, and also grateful for the
opportunity to learn something myself!
Warmest regards,

Clarification of Answer by byrd-ga on 10 Mar 2003 11:56 PST
John --
Omnivorous-ga received a reply from his inquiry to Phil Kemp at
Air-Britain Historians.  He's posted the lengthy and very interesting
reply in the "Comments" section of this question.  At his suggestion,
I'm posting this clarification so you'll receive the email
notification, as I agree you'll probably want to read what he has to
say.  Fascinating.

Omnivorous - 
Thank you much - great information and links!

All my best,
aerobatics-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
Excellent material - Byrd. I thank you and the others who contributed
for the research.  I am satisfied and will include Hawker, Coutney,
Godden and Lindemann along with Parke as patron saints each time a fly


John Grinder

Subject: Re: Aviation aerobatics and specifically recovering from a spin
From: serenata-ga on 27 Feb 2003 00:45 PST
Add to the clarification above, the narrative, along with a picture of
Parke's aircraft, is in a book now out of circulation called "Seconds
to Live" (not to be confused with the essay "178 Seconds to Live"
about flying in bad weather).

I have not found more as of yet on either the book or a narrative of
the spin.

Subject: Re: Aviation aerobatics and specifically recovering from a spin
From: omnivorous-ga on 01 Mar 2003 09:41 PST
John --

I have some tangential information that may be helpful to you or other
researchers.  I've also put in a query to a British aviation history
source that I know.

You could do the Google researchers a favor by letting us know if you
received e-mail notification of this clarification.

In an essay by F. H. Hinsley in a book called "Churchill: A Major New
Assessment of His Life in Peace and War," he contends that Prof.
Frederick Lindemann (later Lord Cherwell), it is written that:

"Chruchill would have heard of -- and perhaps even envied --
Lindemann's skill as a pilot, where he was famed as the first man to
explain why an aircraft could go into a fatal spin, to work out the
procedure whereby its pilot could recover it from the spin, and who
then learned to fly and to demonstrate that his procedure worked."

Lindemann would certainly have been familiar with Parke's feat.  The
passage in the book presumably refers to Lindemann's figuring out that
lift had been disrupted on one of the wings -- leading to the spin.

Now, to get REALLY off topic: Churchill himself had taken flying
lessons while First Lord of the Admiralty (pre-WWI) and had made about
140 flights before the outset of the war.  Then he asked his wife's
opinion about the safety of flying and was forced to give it up.  Some
Lion of the Free World!

Best regards,

Subject: Re: Aviation aerobatics and specifically recovering from a spin
From: omnivorous-ga on 01 Mar 2003 09:51 PST
BTW, Lindemann ran the Statistical Office for Churchill during WWII,
doing independent analysis of scientific issues and interpreting many
issues for Churchill and the War Cabinet Secretariat.  He had long
served as a science advisor for Churchill.
Subject: Re: Aviation aerobatics and specifically recovering from a spin
From: omnivorous-ga on 02 Mar 2003 19:55 PST
Byrd and John --

That's the most phenomenal answer I've seen, correcting a historical
record with an original source and synthesizing pieces of information
related by others.  All with phenomenal detail!

Though I doubt that anyone but a pilot would appreciate this, it's
really a gem!
Ten stars to Byrd-ga.

I hope that Stowell's book gets wide publication and distribution. 
It's an interesting, deadly and poorly understood area of aviation.  I
fly a Mooney (placarded against intentional spins) and they have
quirky and unpredictable spin characteristics, sparking hot debates
among experienced instructors about spin training.

Once again gentlemen, thank you.

Best regards,

Subject: Re: Aviation aerobatics and specifically recovering from a spin
From: byrd-ga on 03 Mar 2003 08:47 PST
Thank you very much for the generous rating and kind words.  I'm very
glad you were pleased with the answer, and also grateful for the
opportunity to learn something myself!

Thank you too for such high praise, which means all the more coming
from a fellow Researcher and Pilot!  You're right, probably no one but
another pilot will appreciate this information, but for us it
certainly is a fascinating look at what you aptly desribe as a still
poorly understood area of aviation.

John and Omnivorous,
Don't forget to keep an eye on the booklists and Stowell's website for
news of the publication of this book.  He sent me a further email
saying he that, although he's been working on the book for several
years, he is hoping now to have it out by the end of the year.  I for
one will definitely be buying it.  And my appetite has been whetted
for perhaps a little more training along these lines - think I might
give our local CFI-A a call!
Blue skies and tailwinds to both of you,
Subject: Re: Aviation aerobatics and specifically recovering from a spin
From: omnivorous-ga on 08 Mar 2003 16:44 PST
Byrd and John --

I just received this note from Phil Kemp at Air-Britain Historians. 
Byrd: I'm not sure that Aerobatics will receive e-mail notification of
this comment; you might have to post a clarification for him to see

Best regards,



The Dunstan Hadley book entitled "Only Seconds to Live - Pilot's Tales
the Stall and Spin" covers Lieutenant Wilfred Parke's Dive in some
Even the cover painting depicts the incident on 25th August 1912. The
of the book is 1 85310 877 4.

It has many references to the incident, including an extract
from 'Flight' dated 31st August 1912 and even a photo of Parke
emerging from
his Avro Biplane after the incident.

A search on and there seem to be loads of examples
of the
above book, strangely ranging in price from just over 5 to nearly

The one at this link seems quite good though. See what you think.

A further reference 'History of British Aviation 1908-1914' by R
Brett, first published 1933, reprinted 1988 by Air Research
which is quite widely available from the usual specialist dealers.

The Guinness Book of Aircraft Facts and Feats (first issued 1970, with
editions in 1973, 1977, 1984 & 1985 at least) also has more details on
Wilfrid Parke RN.

The spinning incident referred to happened on 25 August 1912. Pilot Lt
Wilfred Parke RN, with observer Lt Le Breton, RFC were flying  an Avro
tractor biplane with a 60 hp Green engine. He went into a spin when
turning onto finals at only about 700 ft, and discovered from
necessity the
full-opposite-rudder recovery procedure.

Parke's was the second known recovery from a spin in Britain. The
first in
Britain and possibly the World was FP Raynham in about Feb 1911. He
disorientated after running into fog near Brooklands while flying an
Biplane, though he did not know how the recovery had happened
(Possibly the
aircraft had sufficient stability that it recovered itself - this is
true of
some modern trainers). Raynham went on to become a leading test-pilot.

The first man who it is claimed set down the procedure for getting out
of a
spin is Major Frank Godden, test pilot at Farnborough, who in August
"in view of recent accidents", spun an FE8 and summarised his method
recovery, as 1. Switch off motor; 2. Control stick put central and
forward; 3. Rudder put in centre. [source: ibid pp. 193-194.]

Details of Parke's spin are also given in the book by Sir Geoffrey de
Havilland, 'Sky Fever'.

Parke was killed a few months after the event, along with his
passenger A
Hardwick the manager of Handley Page Aircraft Co., on 15 Dec 1912 when
Handley-Page Monoplane crashed near Cricklewood (north of London)due
engine failure.

Phil Kemp
Air-Britain Historians (

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