Slow flight and Stalls can be very Exciting

Once you’re at 3,000 MSL in the practice area and have made the necessary clearing turns, she says, “We’re going to kill two birds with one stone. I want you to enter straight ahead slow flight at constant altitude, but slow it until you can feel the elevator shudder. Then smoothly apply full power, push the carb heat in with your right thumb. Don’t forget to compensate for the P-factor as you add power. As your throttle goes forward, your right foot should go forward at the same time.”

Your entry to slow flight is quite good. You feel a little shudder in the elevator, but are not quite sure if that is what she was mentioning. Is it mild turbulence? Suddenly the nose pitches down. You apply full throttle forgetting about carb head and rudder. The airplane enters a cross controlled stall. Your natural reaction is to pull back more on the elevator to keep the nose from falling even more. This exacerbates the stall pushing the airplane into a spin to the left.

You don’t know it, but she is watching your face with a slight smile on her lips.

You feel the right rudder move forward and hear a quick, “I’ve got it!”

She slams the elevator full forward briefly, keeps the ailerons neutral and stops the rotation around the yaw axis with right rudder. Then she reduces power and brings the nose up simultaneously. Once the nose passes up through the horizon, she brings in full power and closes the carb heat. When the airplane is established in a 70 KIAS climb and properly trimmed, she gives control of the airplane back to you, tells you to return to 3,000 feet MSL.

She looks at you. With a slight shrug says, “Okay, tell me what happened.”

You’ve done your homework. You know exactly what just happened. “I didn’t know if the shaking in the elevator was pre-stall burble or turbulence. So I let it develop more. The plane stalled and I started recovery procedures. I remembered to apply full power but the nose kept dropping. That scared me so I pulled back on the nose. By then, I was just focusing on the one thing that scared me – the falling nose. I tried full up elevator and completely forgot to compensate for P-factor. The left wing dropped and the nose started to yaw to the left. That’s when you took over.”

“Exactly. We were entering a spin. The more you pull back on the elevator, the more violent the spin. That’s why we practice stalls a lot. Because the procedures needed to recover from a stall are quite unnatural. When the nose drops, we want to pull it back up. That works until the wing has exceeded its critical angle of attack – until we’re in a stall. Then the greater the angle of attack the less the lift. Remember that the elevator is your angle-of-attack control.

“There’s another lesson here that you’ve hit on. When anyone gets too frightened, he or she automatically focuses on the source of that fear. In flying, we cannot afford to focus on any one thing longer than a second or two.

“The problem is the fear. Certainly unexpected falling triggers a human’s primal fear. Combined with a sense of loss of control just makes the situation worse.

“The very best way to avoid these situations is to anticipate them, or, if you cannot, to immediately recognize what is happening. In either case you need to know exactly what you should do when they happen. People don’t panic when they know what to do.

“I’m going to demonstrate one for you. Put your hand lightly on the elevator and tell when you feel the burble. I’ll go through the hold procedure then it’ll be your turn.”

She enters slow flight, stalls then returns to cruise configuration. You do the same.

“This is why I harp on compensating for P-factor. Don’t think of it in those terms. Think of it as keeping your wings level with your ailerons and the nose from turning with your rudder. In a turn, it is keep the ball in the center since your wings won’t be level. The real reason is this: If you nose doesn’t turn, you can’t spin.

You continue the lesson with slow flight and stalls from every conceivable flap and power configuration – from climbs, glides and turns, departure stalls, go around stalls, approach stalls…

On the way back to the airport, she says, “We’ll do more slow flight and stalls. They help you develop very necessary piloting skills – especially landing skills.

“On the next lesson, I’m going to introduce ground track maneuvers. They help you develop your situational awareness and show you how to know where the wind is blowing from and how strong it is without needing to listen to ATIS.”

While ground tract maneuvers are a logical next lesson before entering the traffic pattern, there appears to be great demand for tips and techniques that make landings easier. So look for How to Prevent the Three Most Dangerous Landing Mistakes

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