Stalling, A healthy outcome

Blog Learning To Fly Video

There is a misconception around the term stalling. It’s often imagined by “noflys” (a name I’m coining to describe those who either can’t fly, or have not yet begun their pilot training) to be a dramatic and dangerous occurrence, accompanied by an increasing whirring note as the aircraft plummets to the ground and for its occupants towards certain death. Having experienced and subsequently recovered from my first stall, I can safely tell you that 1. I my insides are still where they should be and 2. this misconception is complete nonsense.

I should start by explaining what a stall is in aviation terms. Essentially, A stall happens when a wing is unable to generate lift because it reaches an angle of attack where the forces no longer balance and therefore begins to drop, this action has a profoundly strong effect on the plane, the very action of the wing beginning to drop neutralises the stall and the wing begins to generate lift once more. Does a stall feel like a rollercoaster where your stomach is looping and your brain spinning? No, it doesn’t. The onset of a stall is very subtle, you’ll get a warning note from the “stall-warner” an alert to remind you that a stall is pending and you’ll feel the aircraft buffeting, or vibrating slightly and I mean slightly, then gradually the nose will begin to sink and “swoop”… nothing dramatic, nothing perilous, nothing nasty… just a gentil wobble which the aircraft will, of its own accord actually try to fix. The sign of a stable aircraft is one that is difficult to get out of shape.

The thing to remember is, that a stall doesn’t just occur at low airspeeds, your airspeed could be quite high, but the attitude of the aircraft could be such, that a stall could occur at much higher velocities, the stall happens at a higher speed for example during a turn. With flaps engaged, stall speeds are lower, because the aircraft generates more lift when the flaps are extended.

Recovery from a stall is quite simple… but first, as always in aviation there’s a mnemonic to use… HASELL (and then for every practice thereafter HELL)

  • Height – Are you high enough to practice the maneuver (2000ft QNH with an instructor 3000ft QNH solo)
  • Airframe – Is the aircraft set up for the maneuver, clean etc
  • Security – Hatches, harness’s everything tied down safely?
  • Engine – Temperatures and pressures in the green
  • Location – Are you in a safe location and not over populated areas, aerodromes, danger areas, controlled airspace etc
  • Lookout – Have a good look out, perform some turns to ensure that no other aircraft are conflicting.

When not under training, you should be looking to recover from the stall at the first hint, either at the “wobble” or when the stall warner comes on. When the stall happens, simply the the control column straight and gently squeeze forwards enough to un-stall… apply full power at the same time and pull up… but don’t allow the aircraft to plumet, or pull up too hard as you “could” go into a high speed stall… it’s a balancing act and one that every pilot learns early on. (thankfully I think I have)

Heres a clip of how scary a stall, actually isn’t.

Next I move on to circuits, which I am really looking forward to. For me, this is where I get to practice all of the skills I have learned up to now. Circuits are a constant loop around the airfield doing “touch and go” approaches and a lot of checklists (which I need to commit to memory) but here’s where I hone my skills to land and take-off, which are kind of important, in the great scheme of things. We need the take off and landing numbers to balance, perfectly… or something is seriously wrong.

In other news… I’m now in possession of my class 2 medical. Apparently I have “white coat syndrome” which is very common in that ones blood pressure rises when told to sit down and relax by the doctor. After a week of measuring twice a day, I’m good to go.