A stall occurs when the wings can no longer support the aircraft in flight. Weight is greater than lift. What happens? The plane enters a high rate of descent that cannot be allowed to continue to the ground.
Here’s a tip: Your plane is designed to not stall. In fact, some aircraft are difficult to make stall. You’ll have to do something dumb like keep pulling back on the yoke or stick to keep it in a stall. If you let go of the control the nose will dip in a stall, airspeed will build up and it will — without your interference — recover itself from a stall. The only time this isn’t true is when the altitude required for recovery is less than your altitude off the ground. That’s why you’ll be learning to force a stall at altitude so you can learn how to quickly recover. Many small GA aircraft can recover from a stall in just 100 to 200 ft. of altitude.
So you’ll be practicing stalls with your instructor, typically at 2,000 ft. above ground level (AGL) or higher. You’ll practice both power-on and power-off stalls. A power-on stall can occur during takeoff and a power-off stall can occur when you’re attempting to land. Remember, you want a power-off stall to occur a few inches above the runway when you land. Any higher and you’re going to bounce or crash.
Never attempt a practice maneuver in which the lowest altitude you reach is less than 1,500 ft. AGL. It just doesn’t give you enough room to recover before planting your plane.
When will you know that your aircraft is at or near a stall? Your plane will tell you. Many aircraft have a stall-warning device mounted on a wing, a noisemaker that is activated when the wing’s angle of attack is too high for the relative wind over the wings. On some aircraft it sounds like a dysfunctional duck call. In addition, as a plane approaches a stall, the controls will become less responsive or “mushy” and you’ll need more effort to control the craft than at higher speeds.
Some aircraft have very pronounced stalls, but most newer models simply dip their noses to build up airspeed and fly themselves out of the stall. Your response to a stall should be…
- Apply moderate forward pressure on the yoke or stick to increase airspeed.
- Simultaneously add throttle to recover lost altitude.
One of the reasons you’ll be practicing is to show you how much forward pressure is needed on the yoke or stick. If you don’t put the nose down enough or you pull the nose back up too quickly, your plane could stall again—called a secondary stall.
Remember, stalls are not something you do in everyday flight. You are learning them for three reasons:
- To recognize the onset of a stall so you can prevent one from occurring
- To recover from a stall with a minimum loss of altitude if one does occur
- To demonstrate a stall during the practical test.