I used to get scared silly whenever the word “stall” was mentioned in a pre-flight briefing. When I was a student pilot I remember very well the dread I felt before my first lesson on stalling. The thought of letting the instructor pull my power and allowing my plane to ‘fall out of the sky’ used to leave me feeling incredibly nervous.
Then I passed my PPL, started to fly more cross-countries and to be honest forgot all about stalling. I mean it was just one of those things you did for your GFPT and then you move on right? I thought I’d never have to hear the word “stall” in a flying school again.
That was until I started an Advanced Aircraft Course (precursor to an aerobatic rating) with Red Baron in Sydney. Lesson 5 – Stalling and Angle of Attack (AoA) Control.
I was reminded about what a stall is (and what it isn’t) and more importantly how to best recover from it. And then myself and my instructor set out to our R2160 to put theory into practise.
At this point I don’t mind admitting I was feeling pretty anxious. Here I was about to face stalling again, the pre-flight nervousness was starting to come back. I remember telling my instructor how I was feeling but he simply told me to relax and that I would see things differently after the flight. I didn’t believe him, but regardless we set off to the training area.
And then a funny thing happened – the flight that I was dreading turned out to be the most enjoyable and informative time I have had in an aeroplane in my 4 years of flying to date. I was shown how an aircraft can stall with level wings, in a turn, inverted (that’s us 3/4 of a way through a roll on the left), on the back of a loop, and straight and level at 110Kts when you pull the stick right back in one go.
Then, by holding a constant AoA and allowing the aircraft to dive then climb and repeat through multiple oscillations I was shown how you can still manoeuvre the aircraft at below Vs. Something that I’d only read about and to be honest didn’t really believe until I did it myself. It was a brilliant experience.
Why was it so good? Two reasons.
Firstly, it was one of those lightbulb moments for me as I realised exactly what stalling meant and how to recover from it regardless of attitude. My stall recovery before the lesson was -400′, after it was -50′. One day if my aircraft stalls at 300′ AGL my life will be saved by this lesson.
Secondly, by being able to stall and then regain control of the aircraft in any attitude, all of a sudden the dreaded ‘stall’ became a simple aerodynamic phenomenon that I could a) instantly recognise (without listening for the stall horn) and b) recover from. So it was no longer scary.
The point of this post is simple. If you are like I used to be and fear stalling, or if you have only ever practised a level-wing power-off stall in your student days and never since, I can’t encourage you enough to get down to your local flying school and ask for some instruction in stalling and constant angle of attack control. Not only will it be brilliant fun, but it could just come in very handy one day in your future.
Good luck, and safe flying.