My instructor candidate had demonstrated a few spin entries when it happened: His window popped open unexpectedly. We thought it was a benign fluke, but it happened again. After the third unexpected opening, the window became difficult to keep closed. I flew the plane for a bit while he fiddled with the latch. The sudden rush of air and noise when the window opened was annoying, but I started asking myself "What's the worst that could happen?"
It's been said that good pilots are pessimists: They don't assume everything will be okay. Instead, they look for potential problems, holes in their own theories. I think good pilots are also able to simultaneously hold conflicting theories in their head. All of this leads a good, safe pilot to make conservative decisions and to imagine worst-case scenarios.
Each time the window popped open we were climbing back to altitude for the next spin entry. I figured the window opening unexpectedly during the descent portion of the spin recovery would be the worst. I had visions of the rickety window hinge and stay arm being ripped loose, the detached window traveling backward and hitting an important part of the plane, perhaps a control surface. That would be bad. So what were the options?
I thought about demonstrating a spin recovery technique for this particular plane that allows you to keep the airspeed within the greed arc during the recovery, but decided against it. My instructor candidate was now having to hold the window shut with one hand and that made it pretty difficult to fly the plane and talk on the radio. So we headed back to the airport. Once on the ground, he discovered a simple way to fix the latch. I think we both felt regret and I wondered if I'd made the best decision.
A few days later, I happened to read about an instrument rating candidate and an instructor in Florida who flew into some heavy weather. They had asked ATC if the radar showed any cell of precipitation and ATC had said "no." But soon they found themselves in heavy rain with lots of turbulence. The turbulence became so bad that one of the cockpit doors came out of its hinges. In the process, the cabin window popped open, was ripped loose, and struck the horizontal stabilizer on its way into oblivion. The aircraft landed safely and during the post-flight inspection the pilots discovered that the free-wheeling window had struck and bent the horizontal stabilizer downward about 30 degrees.
Less than two weeks after doing spins with the above-mentioned instructor candidate, I found myself with another instructor candidate in the same plane, making our way to the same practice area to do spin training. The spins were going to be a bit of a formality since this candidate, until about six months ago, had been flying F14s for the Navy. Here was a pilot who had flown 1.4 times the speed of sound, flown 500 feet over deserts and mountains at high speed, and performed countless carrier landings. Spin entry and recovery were not the issue. The task at hand was learning techniques for teaching GA pilots about spins while flying a small airplane.
I demonstrated an intentional spin entry and recovery first to the right, then to the left. This candidate learned very quickly and judging by the look on his face, this was the most fun he'd had in over a dozen hours of flight and ground instruction with me. I think he was happy to finally be pulling 2 or 3 Gs, even if for just a few seconds. For my part, I like to see people I instruct feeling happy. I also like it when the window stays shut.