Why we should deliberately stall aircraft

Why I make students Deliberately Stall Aircraft

The stall is a greatly misunderstood and feared aspect of flying.  Not just by student pilots, but also by surprisingly experienced ones.  I recently read an article that pretty much said that stalls were dangerous, and because airline pilots didn’t do them, then there was no reason for General Aviation pilots to learn them. Therefore we would all be safer, happy little Vegemites, never straying away from the straight and level magenta line on our GPS.  By that rationale, then we should never practise complete loss of thrust after takeoff emergencies, accidental penetration into IFR, or emergency diversions due running out of coffee. 

Why I make students stall aircraft

Of course I disagree with the above, and I strongly advocate stall training, and regular stall practise, in pretty much all types of civilian General Aviation aircraft.  I’m also big on preparing for such practise by researching and study – especially of the aircraft manual, to check on the limits, prohibitions, and techniques associated with this.  Some aircraft may have strict Centre of Gravity limits, unconventional stall cues and even recoveries, and perhaps may have a total ban on intentional stalling; so you must check the data.   

Airline pilots do not practise stalling or spinning, because of aircraft (and company) limitations. Swept wing aerodynamics and T-tails and strange power/pitch coupling often necessitate specialist systems such as stick shakers, warning horns and stick pushers to fully protect the crew and passengers from entering that ‘danger zone’. At high altitude where the fuel efficiency is best, the safe envelope to fly in (between Low Speed Buffet and High Speed Buffet) can easily be within 20 KIAS. That’s not the best place to venture into amateur test piloting.  

Why practice stalling an aircraft?

So why practise stalling?  Your aircraft can stall, and no amount of reading or watching youtube videos can help prepare you for the unexpected stall.  The day that you stall your aircraft, without expecting it, I can guarantee that you will be surprised – perhaps even shocked, and possibly even be in denial. To increase the likelihood of you recovering correctly and quickly, then you must become experienced at deliberately stalling (and then recovering) from such events – until it is second nature. 

High Angle of Attack flying. Aerobatic pilots often pull through the stall on purpose. It also happens by mistake, and they become experts at flying on the edge.

How to deliberately stall an aircraft

Now we probably all remember that we are taught to stall by pulling the engine power back to idle, slowing down, raising the nose, and hearing the instructor calmly saying “note the high nose attitude,slow speed, sloppy controls…” and maybe you even heard the sickly strangled sparrow screaming the “stawwwwwl…” warning, before you recovered. What if I told you that you probably didn’t even stall yet?  What if I told you that “raising the dropped wing with rudder” was incorrect? What if I told you that when you do stall unintentionally, that maybe NONE of those instructor descriptions may occur at all?  That’s right, you may be nose low, with power applied, with firm responsive controls, 20 knots above that golden stall speed, and you might not even hear that weird stall horn – and that aircraft suddenly stops flying.  Headed for the planet, with trees getting bigger, and the control column pulled back into your belly – will be the instinctive, incorrect, and last thing you will ever do. 

Fighter pilots and experienced aerobatic pilots are less likely to fear the stall. They live on the stall for fun and efficiency, and often pull through it to win dogfights and competitions.  The aerobatic diehards will even push hard enough to stall the aircraft under negative G (fighter pilots don’t like to mess up their hair, so they tend to roll fast and pull even harder).  My point is, they practise often, and they soon learn to ‘feel’ the approaching stall, regardless of their attitude, speed or power. 

My recommendation is to find an instructor well versed in aerobatics or air combat, and get them to explain the stall to you. They should cover the STALL STICK POSITION, ANGLE OF ATTACK, INCREASE/DECREASE IN STALL SPEEDS, G-FORCES, SLIPPING, SKIDDING, WING DROP, and of course the RECOVERY ACTIONS associated with your aircraft.  Then you should fly together, get some safe height (normally sufficient to recover above 3000 feet from the ground), and experience all kinds of stalling. Yes, the old power off, nose high, slow speed classic is a must. But also trying full power climbing stalls, steep turn stalls, descending glide turn stalls, cross controlled stalls, and short field landing configuration stalls. I’m sure there are more combinations, but in reality the basics of recovery are pretty much the same – but you need to experience and recognise all of these scenarios. 

In summary

When you pull too hard on the controls and exceed the AOA, the aircraft can stall at ANY airspeed. The stick position for the aerodynamic stall pretty much remains the same. The most effective immediate action to avoiding the stall is to reduce the AOA by relaxing the back pressure on the stick and centralising the controls. Think stick position, and know when to reduce it!

To help protect yourself from stalling you should also chair fly and visualize standard stall recoveries, incipient stall recoveries, and incipient and fully developed spin recovery. For those conducting aerobatics or intentionally departing from controlled flight with an instructor, a good quality headset that won’t fly off your head or a proper fitting flight helmet is a must.

Jorgo

Jorgo

Michael Jorgensen is a specialist formation instructor and Australia's premier air to air formation action photographer, based in Sydney, Australia. Jorgo has a wealth of experience, stemming from his career as a military fast jet pilot, and heavy air-to-air refuelling tanker pilot flying for both the New Zealand and British Air Forces. Find out more

Jorgo has 10 posts and counting. See all posts by Jorgo

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