Spins And Stalls Strike All Pilots

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Experienced May Have False Sense Of Security...

AOPA's Air Safety Foundation (ASF) just released a report on spins and stall accidents, and while some of the results aren't surprising, it challenges some pretty well-entrenched perceptions of one of the most deadly types of in-flight mishaps. The ASF reports stall and spins have a fatality rate of about 28 percent, and account for about 10 percent of all GA accidents. "Fatal stall/spin accidents most often begin at or below traffic pattern altitude (generally 1,000 feet above ground level), well below the altitude necessary to recover from even a one-turn spin," the report reads. The report challenges the sales pitch touted by some aerobatic flight schools by claiming that stall/spins encountered at traffic pattern altitude are virtually unrecoverable, even by pilots with some aerobatic training under their belts. This ASF investigation of GA stalls and spins is the first in a series of Air Safety Foundation Topic Specific Studies based on research using the ASF Safety Database.

...Flight Experience Is Examined...

What might be surprising to some is that the thickness of the logbook and number of endorsements held by a pilot do not always equate to stall/spin immunity. "A common misconception is that student pilots are most likely to suffer fatal stall/spin type accidents," said ASF Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. "ASF's research shows that's completely untrue. Pilots with commercial pilot certificates are far more likely to be involved in such accidents, and private pilots aren't far behind." So, why the distinction between experience levels? ASF concluded some commercial and private pilots may become complacent in their skills, or "lack proficiency or understanding in aircraft operations at the corner of the flight envelope."

...And Aircraft Are Scrutinized

Because aircraft design is the primary factor in how an aircraft will behave in a stall or spin, the report went on to list some of the aircraft that show up more often in the stats. For example, the ASF claims Piper Tomahawks were involved in roughly double the number of stall/spin accidents per 100 aircraft as the Cessna 150/152 or the Beech 77, but again, the data needs qualification. "An estimated 43 of the Tomahawk accidents occurred at a low altitude, where recovery, regardless of aircraft type, was unlikely," the report read. "Does that make it unsafe? No, it only means that the PA38 must be flown precisely in accordance with the Pilot Operating Handbook and with instructors who are proficient in stalls and spin recovery in that aircraft ..."