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The Stall-Spin Recovery in Flying

It is better to abandon a climb maneuver at the first sign of trouble.

Too-high angle of attack, lack of airspeed, unsmooth air, or any combination thereof can lead to an aerodynamic stall.  If the angle of attack, or pitch angle, is too great the air begins to break up around the wing and no longer supports it.  This is sometimes called “burbling”, and air is separating from the wing instead of flowing around it to produce Bernoulli lift.  The force of Lift depends on the forward velocity of an airplane, the more velocity the greater the lift.  So if airspeed is not sufficient, this becomes an obvious shortcoming during an airplane’s climb maneuver.  Rough or unsmooth air will not behave like calm air - and the smooth flow of air about a wing causing the Bernoulli phenomena of Lift - will not always be present in rough air.  If it is broken or separated about the wing, the aircraft will behave just like the example of too-high angle of attack.

Pilots are routinely trained to handle a stall incident and should be able to recover from a stall.  A stall recovery is mostly letting go of an attempted climb maneuver and pitching it back down to resume straight and level flying.  If the aircraft is beyond this simple fix, and it is falling significantly off its flight path, the pilot should try regaining attitude control by pointing the aircraft down towards the ground to obtain a gravity-assisted velocity boost.  The aid of gravity should add to whatever engine thrust is available to build up enough velocity and generate lift under the wing again “pushing” it back onto a more reasonable flight path.  The lift force alone can begin righting the aircraft into a horizontal position, supplemented by elevator control to eventually regain a straight and level flying position.  It is a bit like a scary roller coaster ride.  Imagine pointing the aircraft right toward the ground while giving it a full throttle thrust.  It could take a lot of nerve, yet it could be the only way of recovering from a life threatening stall.

The above requires, of course, enough working altitude to complete the maneuver, yet most situations seem to indicate that there is.  The above is also only a basic description of what is mostly true.  There are specific details per different type of aircraft which may give a more optimal procedure to recover from aerodynamic stall.  It would be nice, however, if all aircraft were designed to behave the same way.

Although the previous example sounds pretty terrifying to experience, the worst case scenario has yet one more complication:  an out-of-control spin.  This is when the aircraft is well beyond a simple nose-dive recovery, and is gyrating about its roll axis heading right towards the ground.  Although appearing if the end were near, it may not be as bad as one thinks.  Since the aircraft is heading downward, at least you have the right general direction for gravity-assisted velocity.  An experienced pilot knows this as a blessing in disguise.  The task is to regain control of the spin by working with the rudder and ailerons.  It starts with a common sense approach to try to rotate the aircraft in the opposite direction of the spin, but it may take combinations of gentle persuasion and sudden control movements to either coerce or shock the aircraft into a stable nosedive.  Once this is accomplished, recovering from the nosedive is the same as the previous example.  Ample lift should develop pushing the plane horizontal supplemented with elevator control.  As in the previous example, this basic explanation may vary per aircraft given by the aircraft’s operator manual.

What the above description is mostly implying is not to get into such a situation in the first place.  It is better to abandon a climb maneuver at the first sign of trouble.  All current aircraft are equipped with an alarm system that warns of a pending stall before it actually occurs.  If danger is not already detected, the alarm should at least cause an emergency reflex in the pilot to give-up on the climb, and restart when conditions are better.