death spiral

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death spiral (plural death spirals)

  1. (aviation) The downward, corkscrew-motion of a disabled aircraft which is unrecoverably headed for a crash.
    • 1999 July 21, Mike Allen with Matthew L. Wald, "Maneuver by Kennedy's Plane Suggests He Was Disoriented," New York Times (retrieved 14 Sep. 2011):
      “We call this getting yourself in a square corner, when you run out of ideas and experience at the same time,” said Mr. Barr, a fighter pilot in the Vietnam War. “ . . . Even for a good pilot, that could produce a death spiral.”
  2. (pairs figure skating) A manoeuvre in which a male skater spins in place while holding one hand of his female skating partner as she circles around him with one skate on the ice and one leg extended outward parallel to the ice surface, all the while slowly lowering herself until her back almost touches the ice surface.
    • 2002, Carole Shulman, The Complete Book of Figure Skating[1], →ISBN, page 194:
      There are four types of death spirals, named for the edge on which the lady is skating — forward outside, forward inside, back outside, or back inside.
  3. (figuratively, idiomatic, by extension) The situation or course of action of one who is on a path toward some sort of inevitable catastrophic failure.
    • 1992 April 13, Anastasia Toufexis et al., Did His Doctor Love Him to Death?," Time:
      But what followed for Lozano, his grieving family claims, was a death spiral into infantilism and madness.
    • 2010 April 28, Malcolm Brabrant, "Greece's ‘death spiral," BBC News (retrieved 14 Sep. 2011):
      The markets are in meltdown, intensifying the downward pirouette of what the international financier George Soros has called "Greece's death spiral".


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