Startled Pilots Mishandle Stalls – True or False?

We are all pilots – confident, well trained and surely understand our aircraft well. So, is it true? Do startled pilots mishandle stalls?

Everyone of us had to learn stalls in order to get our Private Pilot’s license, and we continued to practice and be tested on them as we advanced in our ratings to fly aircraft. So how in the world could a stall be such a dangerous thing for high-time, well trained pilots?

As it turns out, quite easily. Take the Colgan Air accident over Buffalo, NY. Here, the aircraft’s behavior startled the pilots leading them to take action which worsened the situation, resulting in a fatal accident. As it turns out their response was all too familiar when airliners go out of control.

To demonstrate this Jack Ralston of Bihrle Applied Research (a firm specializing in creating realistic simulators) stated that “It’s negative training” and that airline training simulators portray stalls as being “so benign it gives the pilot a false impression of what the aircraft actually behave like.”

Entering a Stall

Entering a Stall

We all remember our first stalls – the airspeed drops, the aircraft begins to shake, a wing drops and we initiate a recovery. So Ralston’s firm has developed simulators that more realistically portray an airliner stall. Using software developed by Bihrle a demonstration of the true, violent gyrations triggered by a real stall.

In this case the jet’s left wing drops suddenly placing the aircraft on its side, followed quickly by a roll to the opposite side and then the nose down in a steep dive. Little time exists to recover from such a violent event, and airline pilots need to demonstrate an ability to recognize, and recover, from such stalls before being approved to fly an airliner.

You can read more about stalls on the Airline Safety and Pilot Training website.

Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!

JetAviator7

You are professionals trained to deal with three things that can kill you: gravity, combustion, and inertia. Keep them under control, and you’ll die in bed.

— Sailor Davis, long-time TWA ground school instructor.


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