Stalls…one of the early procedures, dreaded by many, taught before the solo flight. A stall occurs when the aircraft is pitched so high that air can no longer flow over the wing smoothly. They most often occur when climbing during takeoff or starting the flare too early in landing. In flight training, these “power-on” and “power-off” stalls are simulated by procedures in the practice area with an instructor. Now, back in November, if you had asked me to perform a power-on stall I would’ve raised my eyebrows and given a mumbled, “Oh…sure.” They gave me anxiety. Something about forcing the little Cessna 150 to fall from 2,000 feet with the ground nowhere in sight didn’t settle right with me. Not to mention the possibility of a spin. However, after a few flights to practice and some internal pep talks, I was able to overcome my fear and move on to the next phase of training.
Like me, senior member Gigi Hurst did not enjoy stall procedures when first learning them. “It was a lot easier than the sim,” she shared. “But it was still a little nerve-wracking considering you’re stalling the plane on purpose, and hearing the horn is not the best feeling in the world.” Gigi found that communicating with her instructor made performing them much easier. “For me it was definitely talking it out with Tara while I was doing it. Then practicing in the sim and kind of being able to talk my way through it so I wouldn’t miss anything. That helped a lot.”
For senior member Grant White, however, the challenge of stalls was recovering too early and preventing spins. “Half the time I’m never actually in the stall I just recover way too early. That’s pretty much my main challenge…and I think that’s kind of normal for student pilots.” He added, “I do get a little bit nervous sometimes, especially when the plane begins to yaw like it’s going to start going into a spin. That’s probably the scariest bit.” Grant found it helpful to remember what his instructor told him about stall speeds. “You’re not really falling all that fast. Sure the wings are no longer flying, but when you’re falling it’s like a big parachute almost. You’re falling a little bit faster, but you’re not dropping out of the sky like a rock.”
Thankfully, my instructor was patient and taught me to have a different approach when performing stalls. Here is some of the advice that Captain Dean Rice told me to remember:
First, the purpose of practicing stalls is to prepare you in the event that you unexpectedly hear that infamous high-pitched horn in flight. You are asked to perform them so that when landing, taking off or even slowly lifting the yoke while looking out the window for too long, you will not hesitate to lower the nose and recover. Second, your instructor is a CERTIFIED PILOT. They are not going to allow anything bad to happen during your flight and will recover if you are too overwhelmed or enter a spin. Their job is to prepare you for any situation that you may come across, so do not dissuade yourself from attempting the stall because of fear of what could go wrong.
So remember, you’ve got this. When the time is right, get out there and practice. After getting the hang of it, you will find that stalls are not nearly as intimidating as they sound.