…So said the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. Maybe that’s slightly garbled, but it’s something that too many GA pilots mumble when headed earthward. An FAA-Industry group, the GA Joint Steering Committee, which I’m privileged to co-chair, has been looking at the number one cause of fatal accidents for several years. Not surprisingly, it’s loss of control—and stalls play a big part.
A long time CFI and friend had some interesting thoughts—different—and I’d like your opinions.
(With minor editorial changes…)
“Here is the scenario: You’re in the back seat of a Cessna 172, with a newly certificated private pilot at the controls. After liftoff, the pitch is too high. Sure enough, pretty soon the stall warning horn starts screaming. As the passenger, I know what the pilot should do—push the nose down at least until the stall warning stops. (We could conjure up a similar scenario on the base-to-final turn.)
“So how do we teach stalls? The FAA has a lot to say about primacy, recency, and frequency in learning. What is learned best is learned first, repeatedly, and recently. So here is our pilot in training. His instructor says, ‘We’re going to practice stalls.’ You know what comes next. The airplane is put in a stall conducive condition and when the first indication of a stall commences (the horn), the pilot is instructed to pull back on the yoke and keep pulling back, through the buffet (stick shaker), until control is lost. Is that what you want your pilot to do in the real world?
“This happens repeatedly in preparation for a check ride. Almost never (maybe never) in PPL (private pilot license) training is the pilot instructed to respond to a stall horn by pushing unless the instruction is to practice imminent stalls.
“Seems like PPL training in this manner conditions a pilot to: a) ignore a warning of imminent danger; and 2) respond to the warning by doing exactly the opposite of what one would want in the real world of flying.
“When stall accidents occur, pilots all shake their heads and say, ‘Everyone knows that you pitch down to break a stall. This just doesn’t make sense.’ It does make sense, actually. Condition pilots to respond to an imminent stall by pulling back on the yoke, and never the opposite. What really do you expect them to do under duress?”
When asked how we should train pilots to recognize stalls and the whole discussion of AOA (angle of attack) my friend replied there should be an introduction to full stalls but not much more than that. In his mind it’s not about recovery—it’s about prevention. This sounds vaguely familiar to the whole spin/no-spin discussion that can be started in any airport coffee shop or purveyor of stronger beverages.
I’ve got my own views but would like to hear yours. Be kind to one another in discussion because we all want the same thing—fewer accidents. The question is how to best get there. Don’t just vote—how about some comments— we need some good thinking here!
Let the games begin…