Fundamentals of Stall Recovery
Depending on the complexity of the airplane, stall recovery could consist of as many as six steps. Even so, the pilot should remember the most important action to an impending stall or a full stall is to reduce the AOA. There have been numerous situations where pilots did not first reduce AOA, and instead prioritized power and maintaining altitude, which resulted in a loss of control. This section provides a generic stall recovery procedure for light general aviation aircraft adapted from a template developed by major airplane manufacturers and can be adjusted appropriately for the aircraft used. [Figure 4-6] However, a pilot should always follow the aircraft-specific manufacturer’s recommended procedures if published and current.
The recovery actions should be made in a procedural manner; they can be summarized in Figure 4-6. The following discussion explains each of the six steps:
- Disconnect the wing leveler or autopilot (if equipped). Manual control is essential to recovery in all situations. Disconnecting this equipment should be done immediately and allow the pilot to move to the next crucial step quickly. Leaving the wing leveler or autopilot connected may result in inadvertent changes or adjustments to the flight controls or trim that may not be easily recognized or appropriate, especially during high workload situations.
- a) Pitch nose-down control. Reducing the AOA is crucial for all stall recoveries. Push forward on the flight controls to reduce the AOA below the critical AOA until the impending stall indications are eliminated before proceeding to the next step. b) Trim nose-down pitch. If the elevator does not provide the needed response, pitch trim may be necessary. However, excessive use of pitch trim may aggravate the condition, or may result in loss of control or high structural loads.
- Roll wings level. This orients the lift vector properly for an effective recovery. It is important not to be tempted to control the bank angle prior to reducing AOA. Both roll stability and roll control will improve considerably after getting the wings flying again. It is also imperative for the pilot to proactively cancel yaw with proper use of the rudder to prevent a stall from progressing into a spin.
- Add thrust/power. Power should be added as needed, as stalls can occur at high power or low power settings, or at high airspeeds or low airspeeds. Advance the throttle promptly, but smoothly, as needed while using rudder and elevator controls to stop any yawing motion and prevent any undesirable pitching motion. Adding power typically reduces the loss of altitude during a stall recovery, but it does not eliminate a stall. The reduction in AOA is imperative. For propeller-driven airplanes, power application increases the airflow around the wing, assisting in stall recovery.
- Retract speedbrakes/spoilers (if equipped). This will improve lift and the stall margin.
- Return to the desired flightpath. Apply smooth and coordinated flight control movements to return the airplane to the desired flightpath being careful to avoid a secondary stall. The pilot should, however, be situationally aware of the proximity to terrain during the recovery and take the necessary flight control action to avoid contact with it.
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The above procedure can be adapted for the type of aircraft flown. For example, a single-engine training airplane without an autopilot would likely only use four of the six steps. The first step is not needed therefore reduction of the AOA until the stall warning is eliminated is first. Use of pitch trim is less of a concern because most pilots can overpower the trim in these airplanes and any mistrim can be corrected when returning to the desired flightpath. The next step is rolling the wings level followed by the addition of power as needed all while maintaining coordinated flight. The airplane is not equipped with speedbrakes or spoilers therefore this step can be skipped and the recovery will conclude with returning to the desired flightpath.
Similarly, a glider pilot does not have an autopilot therefore the first step is the reduction of AOA until the stall warning is eliminated. The pilot would then roll wings level while maintaining coordinated flight. There is no power to add therefore this step would not apply. Retracting speedbrakes or spoilers would be the next step for a glider pilot followed by returning to the desired flightpath.
Practice in both power-on and power-off stalls is important because it simulates stall conditions that could occur during normal flight maneuvers. It is important for pilots to understand the possible flight scenarios in which a stall could occur. Stall accidents usually result from an inadvertent stall at a low altitude, with the recovery not completed prior to ground contact. For example, power-on stalls are practiced to develop the pilot’s awareness of what could happen if the airplane is pitched to an excessively nose-high attitude immediately after takeoff, during a climbing turn, or when trying to clear an obstacle. Power-off turning stalls develop the pilot’s awareness of what could happen if the controls are improperly used during a turn from the base leg to the final approach. The power-off straight-ahead stall simulates the stall that could occur when trying to stretch a glide after the engine has failed, or if low on the approach to landing.
As in all maneuvers that involve significant changes in altitude or direction, the pilot must ensure that the area is clear of other air traffic at and below their altitude and that sufficient altitude is available for a recovery before executing the maneuver. It is recommended that stalls be practiced at an altitude that allows recovery no lower than 1,500 feet AGL for single-engine airplanes, or higher if recommended by the AFM/POH. Losing altitude during recovery from a stall is to be expected.