Split Second Weightlessness; Nobody Panic!

What is a stall? When someone refers to something as “stalling” what do you typically think of?

         A stall is something that I have always thought of as one of those “uh-oh” moments in life. This is one of those oh so special split second decision moments where you suddenly realize that you have done something silly or careless. You immediately go into panic-apology mode and begin rationalizing possible ways to go about eradicating whatever mistake you have just made.

         Somewhere in between my discovery flight and lesson 4, power-off stalls were introduced to me. These are also known as approach to landing stalls; this is due to the location where they are most prevalent and most likely to happen. Now, I am certainly no professional by any stretch of the word, but any time I’m 5,000 feet above ground level and someone tells me they want to “power off” anything, I freak out a little bit. Call me queasy, but this was something new. After several failed attempts to get out of it, I realized that this was just going to be another one of those things in life that I had to do. Upon learning of its utter magnitude throughout my private pilot training and inevitability in the end, during my check ride I decided to give in. Being the colossal fan of Google.com that I am, my first approach was to “Google” this new topic. Thanks to Dictionary.com, this is what I found:

Stall:

  • To stop running as a result of mechanical failure

  • To halt the motion or progress of; bring to a standstill. To cause a motor (or motor vehicle) to accidentally to stop running.

  • To cause (an aircraft) to go into a stall.


  • In the wild world of aviation; a stall refers to “a condition in which an aircraft or airfoil experiences an interruption of airflow resulting in loss of lift and a tendency to drop.”

    “As the wing angle of attack (AOA) increases to or beyond the critical AOA (approximately 16-20°), smooth airflow over the wing is disrupted, resulting in great increase in drag and loss of lift: a stall”


             Great, this is just exactly what my instincts as well as my stomach (which, during the actual stall was floating somewhere in my throat) had told me about this situation.” I thought. In that actual moment, I thought for sure I was going to die. Why in the world would this ever be a good idea? Better question, why in the world is this happening to me prior to completing lesson 4 of my flight training?

             Well let me tell you why. Most aircraft accidents occur either during a takeoff or during a landing. Being aware of the hazards associated with these phases of flight and knowing how to get yourself out of a bad situation can only make your flights safer. Power-off stalls simulate what would happen if ever there was an occurrence where the pilot was flying too slowly during the landing phase of the flight. The primary objective of a stall during training is to enhance safety in the student right away by helping assure inadvertent stall avoidance and/or prompt stall recovery. In order to assure stall avoidance the student pilot is responsible for understanding any and all flight situations where an unintentional stall may occur. Also, it is necessary to grasp the relationship of various factors relative to stall speed (Vs), be able to properly recognize the first indications of a stall as well as the proper recovery technique.

             Other things to be aware of as the pilot in charge include the relevant aerodynamic factors, flight situations, recovery procedures, as well as the hazards of uncoordinated stalling. Select entry altitude allowing recovery above 1,500 feet above ground level. Carefully watch your approach or landing configuration with throttle reduced or set to idle, straight glide with 30o, +10o bank while continuing to maintain attitude (this will induce a full stall.) Promptly recover by decreasing AOA, leveling wings, and adjusting power as necessary to regain normal attitude, retract flaps as well as gear and reestablish a climb. Finally, avoid a secondary stall, excessive airspeed or altitude loss, spins, or flight below 1,500 feet above ground level. As a student pilot performing a power off stall your objective is to familiarize yourself with the conditions that may produce a stall. Develop knowledge and skill in recognizing imminent and full stalls, as well as the well known habit of taking prompt preventive or corrective action. Overall, the objective of a power-off stall is to understand what could happen if controls were improperly used during a turn from the base leg to the final approach or on the final approach.

             In conclusion, I remember my very first power-off stall vividly! It was tremendously terrifying and I thought with sincere certainty that it would be the first and last of my approach to landing stalls. Clearly, my instructor handled the situation better than I had expected and was able to operate the vehicle enough to maneuver us out of that stall. Since then I have learned how to maneuver myself out of these stalls and usually am asked to perform at least one each time I fly. Not to worry, they absolutely have held onto me with full intensity and each power-off stall that I perform leaved me singed with virtually the same streak of fear. My stomach hovers and I panic for a split second in time, for fear that I may not recover. For now, I take it with a grain of salt. I bite my tongue, hold my breath and thrust the yolk forward with all I’ve got; hoping the little airplane and my instructor will have my back. One day I will be asked to perform such a task without Mr. Frames by my side; until then, well wish me luck!

    This is me and this is my story about approach to landing stalls. But I’m curious; do other pilots have similar fears upon performing their very first power-off stalls? Do older, professional pilots even remember their first power-off stall? I would like to ask my viewers, what are your thoughts and insights regarding these terrifying first few hours of flight training?