I was a bit surprised to hear from this P-51 pilot (9:33 into the video) that the Mustang requires 9000 feet to recover from a spin. This seems high to me. The Mustang POH does not confirm this, but given the indicated recovery procedure, it seems possible:

b. RECOVERY. -- Recovery procedure is the same in both a left and right spin. Upon application of opposite rudder, the nose drops slightly and the spin speeds up rapidly for 1 1/4 turns, after which the spin stops. Rudder force is light at first, becomes very heavy for a period of about one second at the first half turn after starting recovery, then drops to zero as the spin stops. Recovery is effected in the normal manner, that is, by applying full opposite rudder followed by movement of the stick to neutral.

I've researched altitude loss in more modern GA single engine planes, and <= 1K per turn seems common. See this discussion about altitude loss in a 77 Mooney M20J.

I've also researched altitude loss in the Mustang a bit further, but have been unable to find confirmation of this. Now I don't imagine we have a plethora of Mustang pilots actively participating in this forum, so I'll temper my question to be, does 9000 feet seem reasonable? If so, why?

Note: It is not my intention to call into question what the pilot in the video is saying. He does admit he hasn't actually spun the mustang, implying he either read or heard this elsewhere.

Update, July 21st 2017

I came across this video, a VERY good 1944 briefing likely filmed for pilots who are being introduced to the P-51 (Have to admit, I never knew Lee J. Cobb was balding!) . The pilot demonstrates both left and right spins starting at 20:58. It is mentioned that it takes 3 turns to recover, but unfortunately, it is never mentioned how much altitude is lost. However, I suppose it is possible that it could be estimated by looking at the plane against the background by someone far better at this type of math than me.

I've also reached out to the Flight Chops guy to see if he or the pilot want to add their two cents to the discussion.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It may be that you'd want to practice spins at 9000 above ground level to leave enough space for recovery. Even though 1000 ft is common you generally start the maneuver at 5000ft in case it goes wrong. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jul 15, 2017 at 10:43

2 Answers 2


9000 feet is not likely if the pilot applied recovery techniques in a timely manner.

US Army Air Force spin tests found here resulted in an average of 3000-6000 ft alt loss. There are several memos on it all resulting in similar figures.

This one dated 6/26/1943 shows 5500 feet for P-51A

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This one from 4/30/1944 shows 3000-6500 ft for P-51B

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The longest drop noted was on this memo from 7/10/1943 on the P-51A which indicated a single occurrence where the pilot modified his recovery technique resulting in a drop of 7500 ft.

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Sometimes a minimum density is needed to increase aerodynamic damping enough so ending the spin becomes possible. However, then there is not a fixed altitude loss to stop a spin but a fixed density altitude at which spin recovery becomes possible.

I haven't spun a Mustang myself, so this is just my 2 cents to explain what might have prompted this opinion. My opinion, however, is that this particular pilot was talking rubbish.


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