By now we hope you know that stalling has nothing to do with the engine (we say those “quit”), but are you calm, cool, and collected while practicing this fundamental maneuver? Most pilots aren’t. Power-off stalls should become fairly easy and routine with the right technique and a bit of practice.
Power Off Stall
Execute clearing turns to clear airspace adjacent, below, and above.
Pick point on the horizon, and fly into the wind.
Reduce power to a moderate setting, say 1,400 rpm, while maintaining altitude.
Once in flap-operating range, deploy full flaps (all at once is fine).
Reduce power to idle and start a descent. Some people learn to hold altitude during the entire maneuver, but this adds to the stress and doesn’t fully simulate the landing configuration.
At a predetermined altitude pull back on the yoke or stick to get the nose level with the horizon. Pause here briefly, which will arrest the descent, and then continue a continuous movement of back-pressure to keep the airplane from descending. Don’t stop until you’ve pulled all the way back or the until the airplane stalls. This should happen when the nose is between 5 and 10 degrees above the horizon.
Make sure to take the airplane to the full stall. You’ll know this happens when the nose pitches down by itself.
Recover by first reducing back-pressure, remembering that a stall happens when the wing exceeds the critical angle of attack; the only way to stop a stall is to lower that angle with reduced back-pressure.
Almost simultaneously add full power. This is when rudder pressure is important. All that power will increase left-turning tendencies, so be ready with some right rudder pressure.
As the power comes full, increase back-pressure again. If you don’t include this step, the airplane will continue descending, but now with a bunch of power in.
Once you are satisfied that you aren’t losing altitude, retract the first notch of flaps.
If equipped with three flap settings, or an unlimited range, retract the next increment once a positive rate of climb has been established.
Finally, retract the last bit of flaps and settle in cruising flight after accelerating to Vy.
Varying degrees of stalls
Many pilots are afraid to make the airplane perform full stalls, or they become impatient waiting for it to stall, so they recover before the airplane actually stalls. This is called an incipient stall, and while it’s a good situation to recognize and avoid in the real world, it’s not sufficient for the practical test.
Practice versus reality
Although stall practice itself is very safe, real-world stalls continue to be a safety concern. One theory of why rests in the fact that our stall practice is completely divorced from reality. Nowhere is this more evident than straight-ahead power-off stalls. Stalls rarely occur while flying straight and with a long, relaxed set-up. They seem to more often occur with distractions, while turning, and in the traffic pattern.
Practical Test Standards
Objective: To determine that the applicant:
Exhibits satisfactory knowledge of the elements related to power-off stalls.
Selects an entry altitude that allows the task to be completed no lower than 1, 500 feet above ground level.
Establishes a stabilized descent in the approach or landing configuration, as specified by the examiner.
Transitions smoothly from the approach or landing attitude to a pitch attitude that will induce a stall.
Maintains a specified heading, plus/minus 10 degrees, if in straight flight; maintains a specified angle of bank, not to exceed 20 degrees, plus/minus 10 degrees; if in turning flight while inducing the stall.
Recognizes and recovers promptly after a fully developed stall occurs.
Retracts the flaps to the recommended setting; retracts the landing gear, if retractable, after a positive rate of climb bis established.
Accelerates to VX or VY speed before the final flap retraction; returns to the altitude, heading, and airspeed specified by the examiner.
Ian J. Twombly
Ian J. Twombly is senior content producer for AOPA Media.