Stall Training

There has been a lot of talk recently about stalls. For example, the recent reports about the Airbus A-330 that crashed in the Atlantic between Brazil and Paris. Here apparently we had an airplane inadvertently flown into a deep stall by the pilot and for whatever reason he continued nose up inputs until the airplane crashed. Then there is the Colgan Air accident in NY state. In this case the aircraft entered an unintentional stall and instead of pushing the yoke forward, the pilot continued to pull back putting the aircraft into a deep stall.

We all know the proper procedure is to lower the nose and add full power to recover from a stall, yet here we have experienced pilots doing exactly the opposite. Why would they do this? I can’t say for certain but I have some thoughts on the subject.

In the past I have trained many glider pilots in a trusty old training glider that is so gentle when it stalls that it is actually hard to recognize. Later we switched to a glider that had more normal stall characteristics, that is, the nose would drop and so would a wing if you weren’t perfectly coordinated. Guess what many of our pilots did when they saw that nose going down and the glider beginning to rotate. They pulled back on the stick and cranked aileron in against the turn!! They all knew the correct response but when they saw the ground coming up at them they did the wrong thing just like the pilots in the recent airline accidents.

Today and for many years we have trained pilots to recover at the first indication of a stall. The theory being that if the stall is caught at this point there is no need to learn further recovery procedures. Unfortunately this deprives the pilots the sensation of seeing that nose go down and learning how to fix it. Interesting that full stalls are required training by the FAR’s for pre solo students but are never mentioned again unless one trains to be a CFI.

I wonder how many pre solo students actually get proficient at full stalls? Guess what, airline pilots don’t get the benefit of doing full stalls either. Air line pilots are taught to recover at the activation of the stall warning. So it is possible for an airline pilot to fly their entire career without ever actually stalling the plane. Then we wonder why they don’t respond properly when faced with this situation.

Because of these recent accidents there are now proposals to require full stall training at the airlines. I hope the FAA responds favorably to these proposals and adds the requirement for full stall training for airlines as well as general aviation. In the meantime, there is no reason for us not to make this a training requirement of our own. If you have not experienced full stall practice recently, I strongly encourage you to find a competent CFI and get to work.