Three little words are creating a buzz in the aviation safety industry: angle of attack. The FAA recently updated its advisory circular that lays the framework for flight instructor refresher clinics (FIRCs). The agency added angle of attack to one of the 10 core topics that must be covered in FIRCs.
The Nationally Scheduled FAA-Approved, Industry Conducted Flight Instructor Refresher Course advisory circular highlights the top causes of general aviation accidents and stresses that instructors need to be aware of the factors that can lead to them, including "excessive angle of attack, aircraft weight and balance (W&B), bank induced G loading, and many others." Instructors also must know how to avoid them.
"Angle of attack is often misunderstood," said AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg, who has written extensively about the topic. "Ensuring instructors have a comprehensive understanding of angle of attack and can teach it to their students will help to reduce the accident rate."
As pilots learn in training, angle of attack is the angle formed between the wing’s chord line and the relative wind. Each aircraft has a critical angle of attack at which the wing stalls regardless of the aircraft's airspeed, attitude, or weight. The Air Safety Institute offers an online course about aerodynamics that examines this critical concept.
In addition to inserting angle of attack into one of the core areas, the agency streamlined the FIRC outline from 16 to 10 core topics. It also spells out that FIRC participants must complete a test of at least 30 questions during the clinic and pass with a minimum score of 70 percent.
The FAA met with aviation industry representatives, including AOPA, in December 2010 about updating the advisory circular. The association and other industry representatives supported changes to the core topic areas covered in the FIRCs.