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CFI Tips

Making Stalls Fun

Tell a student the next lesson will be stall recognition and recovery, and the reaction may be a feeling of uneasiness and even fear. Fear is usually a product of the unknown.

I have found that starting this lesson with thorough ground school will transform this feeling of uneasiness to a positive, curious anticipation to see how and why the stall recovery really works.

First, explain the theory of stalls showing the relationship of lift as it pertains to the wing chord, the direction of flight, and the relative wind that determines the angle of attack. Show this with a picture of an airplane in a normal approach-to-stall configuration, and then with an airplane such as a Cessna 172 traveling 120 knots through the air that has pulled up abruptly from a spirited descent to straight-and-level flight and entered an accelerated stall. Show in both cases how the critical angle of attack was exceeded. This ground lesson should also illustrate the various possibilities of different stalls, ranging from shallow- and steep-pitch-attitude stalls, cross-control stalls, and power-off-approach-to-landing stalls, to power-on stalls with and without flaps. Each should illustrate that the systematic recovery procedure for all these stalls is basically the same.

State the objective in stall recovery

Make sure to state the primary objective of any stall recovery--to reduce the angle of attack so as to reduce drag and regain adequate lift to get the airplane flying again, and to avoid any obstacles by gaining as much altitude as possible.

Break down the stall recovery scenario into little steps, explaining to the student that he or she will do only one step at a time, and you as the instructor will do the rest of the steps until the student sees how easily, methodically, and comfortably the stall recovery can be accomplished. Start with very shallow stalls, demonstrating the first indication of a stall (usually the stall warning horn), and explain the increasing ineffectiveness of the control surfaces in the proper sequence of ailerons, elevator, and rudder. Show that the rudder is the most effective control surface and with most wings the last one still useable as the stall is encountered. Show that use of the ailerons in some instances can aggravate the stalled wing. Do not rush any of the recovery steps, showing that there is usually adequate time to recover from either an imminent or actual stall.

Be sure to climb to a safe and nonthreatening altitude in a designated practice area, emphasize the necessity for adequate clearing turns, and be constantly vigilant for other aircraft. If appropriate, monitor the correct radio frequency for your area, obtain traffic advisories from ATC, and broadcast your intentions.

As you teach the ground school session explain to your student that all inputs to the controls should be made smoothly and not abruptly. Review and thoroughly explain the nine steps at right with a little model airplane that demonstrate a systematic and nonthreatening recovery for stalls that a general aviation pilot may encounter. Hold the model airplane in different stall attitudes and have the student call out the following nine-point stall recovery scenario slowly as you make the attitude corrections on the model airplane, showing how each step brings the airplane closer to the desired stall-recovery objective.

Following this simple teaching guide will make the actual flying lesson of stall recognition and recovery enjoyable, instructive, and fun for your student.

Carl Dworman is a CFII and ATP who teaches flying in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The nine-point stall recovery scenario

  1. Level the wings with the rudder. The rudder is the most effective control surface in a stall condition. (Even the seemingly scariest stall becomes less frightening and more manageable once the wings are level.)
  2. Squeeze the nose attitude slightly below the horizon. This may require back or forward pressure on the yoke depending on the attitude of the airplane and the current trim configuration. Use positive control, be the boss of the airplane's resulting attitude.
  3. Power up. Add full power.
  4. Clean up. Carburetor heat off, flaps up (normally retract half flaps if in full flap configuration; if in half-flap configuration, retract flaps all the way), and gear up. Note that the POH-recommended procedure and order is the final authority.
  5. Speed up. Bring speed up to VX. Anything more than VX results in time and altitude wasted and is contrary to your objective. Once you have reached VX or if you are already above VX, move on to step 6.
  6. Pitch up. Change the pitch attitude gently from slightly below the horizon to VX attitude. This attitude should be demonstrated prior to stall recoveries so the student knows what it looks like by looking outside the cockpit.
  7. Verify positive rate of climb on the altimeter. Explain how this is the only true single instrument that shows the airplane is gaining altitude. Explain here the limitations and lag of the vertical speed indicator.
  8. Verify that you have cleared all obstacles. Look outside, make heading corrections as necessary.
  9. Lower the nose to VY attitude. Continue your climb to your desired altitude.

By Carl Dworman

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