Is Stall Training Broken?

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One reliable way of stirring up trouble around here is to connect politics with aviation. (I'm good at the trouble part.) The second best might be to discuss economics and aviation in the same sentence. Airline pilots are good at that because pay levels are a favorite topic.

This should be obvious to anyone following our blogs this week on the fallout from the Colgan crash. Some pilots have made the claim that because commuter pilots are so poorly paid, candidates seeking the front seats are less qualified and less experienced than ever. I don't know if I agree with that or not, but I do agree that pilots at this level are paid far too little for their work and the real blame for that rests with the flying public.

In previous blogs, I've argued for higher fares across the board. Because of the public's buy-it-cheap mentality, the industry constantly sends the wrong price/value signals to the market and, as a result, it flies around a lot of seats at below cost. You can blame airline management, but cheap customers are the core cause. It's just stupid. And other than a return to limited regulation, I don't know how to fix it. Maybe more airlines have to fail.

Tangled up in this is the cost/economy of training airline pilots. While everyone is singing the praises of Sully and military pilots in general, very few talk about a basic truth: There's no way the airline industry could ever staff itself entirely or even mostly with former military pilots. There will never be nearly enough of them and it's a delusion to think that the civil side can train to the same standard.

Or is it? The thing about military flight training is that any way you examine it, it's not cost driven. Although the services have been forced to economize, compared to civil training, military training is done on a cost-is-no-object basis. It's debatable whether the investment always produces better pilots, although it probably does produce more uniform results. We've all seen the paradox of expensively trained military pilots who are far from the sharpest knives in the drawer. I'd argue, however, that there are far more dull knives in the civil drawer.

A comment by reader Paul Valovich in my previous blog got me thinking about a new trend that may be developing. Valovich is a former naval aviator and most of us know that the Navy is big on having pilots understand angle of attack and its relationship to the stall. And I'll reveal a bias here by saying that the Navy rightly teaches pilots that pitch controls airspeed and power controls altitude, not the other way around, as many GA pilots are wrongly taught. (Look, I said up front that I'm good at stirring up trouble.)

The worrisome trend I see is that despite the modern wonder of small aircraft glass panels, we're not seeing angle of attack indicators in the certified versions of these systems. We're seeing airspeed tapes and a continuing emphasis on using airspeed as a surrogate for angle of attack. Valovich raises the question of whether GA pilots are generally not being taught basic aircraft control based on a grasp of AoA. I think he's right. And glass cockpits make it worse, not better, because of their unique ability to paint the world as an abstraction utterly divorced from air flowing over wings and control surfaces.

Every new airplane I demonstrate has glass. And every time I fly one, at some point during the flight often for most of the flight everyone is looking at the displays, not out the window. I flew the Cirrus Perspective about a year ago on a blustery, gusty Duluth day. On long final, the demo pilot and I got into a protracted discussion about how difficult it was to keep the path indicator on the point of intended landing when the airplane was being kicked by turbulence. Finally, in exasperation, I allowed as why don't I do like I usually do and look out the window and land that way. This is not an isolated incident. Versions of it are happening every day, even as you read this.

So what's needed is a rethinking of GA methods for teaching not just basic aircraft control but edge-of-envelope control, too. It should incorporate the strengths of glass panels while also teaching students to avoid being mesmerized by the dancing tapes. Maybe this is happening already and if it is, I'd like to hear about it.

And please, can we add some decent AoA indicators to these displays? Make them front-and-center prominent, not just after thoughts.

Comments (40)

I don't disagree at all with what you're saying about AOA and it's effects on flight. However, I think there were 2 main factors in the Colgan crash and only one was related to understanding AOA. I watched the animation and looked at some of the FDR data (the Q400 has an AOA display, I believe). The cause of the stall was both pilots inattention to the flight instruments after lowering the landing gear. I fly a Twin Commander with large gear that adds tons of drag when lowered. To maintain altitude you must add significant power after lowering the landing gear. I've never flown a Q400 but I imagine it's the same thing (high wing, long gear). The Colgan crew didn't touch the power after lowering the gear. The A/P held altitude by raising the nose, and the airspeed bled off (AOA increased) rapidly while the pilots had a conversation about icing. The crash was caused by the pilot failing to simultaneously add power and lower the nose at stall onset. Instead, when the shaker activated and the A/P disconnected he actually raised the nose a bit and climbed before entering a fully developed stall. Then he held the yoke back while trying to roll wings level using aileron and rudder causing the stall to deepen and the plane to enter a spin. In my uninformed opinion, there were 2 serious mistakes that could be addressed by better training. One mistake led to the inadvertant stall, and the other led to the crash.

Posted by: Scott Dickey | May 29, 2009 2:49 PM    Report this comment

It is absurd to blame the customer for the cheap airfare mentality. The customers in general have little knowledge of airline economics and shouldn't have to know. The public believes that the FAA assures them the airlines meet standards, pricing is like gas prices, cheaper is better, a seat is a commodity and it's up to the airline to put prices where they want to. Should a passenger have to get an MBA in airline management to buy a ticket?

As to stalls, if you're going into bear country, you really should know something about bears other than just "Avoid bears!" If you're going to pilot a plane, you should know how to do stall and spin recovery, not just how to avoid bears.

Posted by: Richard Montague | May 29, 2009 4:00 PM    Report this comment

Richard,

I see what you're saying about knowing how to recover from spins and stalls. But I think the answer is more complicated than that. I am sure if you could ask the pilot how to recover from a stall he would give you a textbook answer. I don't think you can get the left (or right) seat of an airliner if you're the least bit uncertain about stall recovery. So the big question is why, at the obvious signs of an impending stall, did this guy pull back on the yoke? My opinion (and it's worth every dollar you paid for it) is that the pilot was completely checked out prior to the event. I think when the stick shaker went off he was totally surprised and had no clue what he doing doing. This is hard to train for because in training you basically know what is coming. And during a stall recovery demonstration you have plenty of time as the airplane slows to think about what you're going to do. But I think this guy was just not in pilot mode at the time and froze mentally. How do you train for that?

Scott

Posted by: Scott Dickey | May 29, 2009 10:38 PM    Report this comment

Scott, I think its some old retired pilot sitting in the jumpseat with a big stick. :-) Or maybe he should be sitting here using it on me for reading these articles instead of studying aviation law? These are more interes ... Whack!!!

Posted by: john hogan | May 30, 2009 6:52 AM    Report this comment

Sometime shortly after the accident I read that the Captain only had about 500 hrs in type, and before that built most of his ATP hrs in a type (I can't remember what aircraft that was) that was suseptible to tail plane stalls. In that case, pulling back on the yoke is the proper response. It was also reported that he failed 2 of the 4 check rides since he joined Colgan. Before anyone jumps up screaming foul, note that I got this info from the general media, and we all know how "expert" they are on aviation issues. That said, and assuming there is more than a modicum of truth to it, it is reasonable to believe that under that stressful condition, he resorted to the muscle memory from his most entrenched training, which would have been tail plane stall recovery. Now, 500 hrs in type for an ATP is almost the same as no hours. So, why did Colgan even allow him in the left seat? By his own admission he only once encountered ice while flying; in Florida (excuse me? That's as rare as hen's teeth.) I agree with Scott's statement that he froze. He simply did not have the training in type to be in the left seat, pure and simple. But we can't blame either pilot. Colgan put them in the seats. As for Paul's points about having an AoA in the panel, in this case, whether there was one or not I don't think would have mattered. It does not appear that the pilots were paying much attention to the panel anyway. After all, good ol' George had everything under control, right?

Posted by: Roger Dugan | May 30, 2009 1:32 PM    Report this comment

Roger,

I'm about 99% sure that a tailplane stall won't activate the stick shaker. That's because I think the stick shaker is driven by the AOA probe which wouldn't detect excessive AOA if the tail stalled. In other words, the stick shaker can only be caused by a wing stall so there would be no reason to pull on the yoke. I don't fly these kinds of planes so I am only guessing but a pilot qualified in the left seat of an airliner would definitely know this. Maybe someone with experience in this class of airplane can comment.

Scott

Posted by: Scott Dickey | May 30, 2009 5:31 PM    Report this comment

Paul,

I believe that the reason the Navy teaches that pitch controls airspeed is because they fly their approaches to a carrier on the back side of the power curve. In that region, the relationship is valid. However, a commercial transport flies the approach very much on the front side of the power curve, and the relationship then is quite different. Not in a million years would I consider reducing speed in my 757 by pitching up. Speed is controlled by power while on the glide slope, and I pitch to the slope. Obviously, I will ultimately maintain a higher angle of attack, and trim to the new airspeed. But the primary control relationship is that power controls airspeed.

In a Cessna 150, in which I first had this discussion with the chief pilot at my university training program, the approach is flown pretty much around the peak of the power curve. You can sort of make either relationship work. There really isn't enough power margin to get a good look at the idea of power controlling airspeed, but it can be accomplished.

In any event, the problem lies in the notion that one axiom fits all. Broadly speaking, we don't teach pilots enough about aerodynamics or performance to enable them to discriminate between different designs, configurations, characteristics and mission profiles. We tend to cling to simplified axioms, and as their relative inadequacies pop up periodically, everyone claims that theirs is the true grail.

Posted by: Steven Green | May 31, 2009 1:50 PM    Report this comment

In primary training, a person is supposed to have received training in slow flight and stalls. Motoring around in a 172 at 40kts for a while gives a person a pretty good idea about airspeed, angle of attack and stalls - not to say that I understood it completely until I became a CFI and had to teach it. I have known and flown with CFI's who were scared to death of stalls and spins, and probably are inadequate teaching them to their students, but I think (and hope) they are in the minority. The Colgan issue seems like a multitude of bad decisions by the flight crew and their management. I guess what strikes me, I can remember being awake for several hours, then going to fly for 10 hours, and honestly, if anything went wrong, I would not have handled it well and everyone would be blogging about the spectacular hole in the ground I made, and wondering why. I think until the culture of let's go sell a ticket as cheaply as possible changes, we'll continue to see accidents due to stressed out and tired pilots. We are seeing a culture of profit, not a culture of safety in the airlines today. I know that a pilot has the duty to refuse a flight when fatigued, emotionally distressed, or otherwise, in the real world he/she might also be unemployed because of that refusal. I can't help but think if the captain & FO were thinking clearly he would have handled this stall warning correctly.

Posted by: Josh Johnson | May 31, 2009 9:48 PM    Report this comment

I believe Scott's right; a tailplane stall wouldn't have triggered the stick shaker. I don't think that line of reasoning ever entered into the captain's mind, however, especially since lowering flaps seemed to be the "trigger" for the event.

Icing rare as hen's teeth in Florida? Roger obviously hasn't done much turboprop flying in the teens. I used to fly out of MIA and we picked up ice routinely in the summer above 14,000' MSL, especially if there was any sort of weather in the area. It was even more common above FL180, but we didn't fly long enough routes out of MIA to justify that altitude most of the time. It wasn't usually very heavy icing -- maybe moderate at best -- but there was plenty of it there.

Posted by: Chris Lawson | June 1, 2009 4:01 AM    Report this comment

I see the problem as unshakeable rigid SOP procedures taught by simulator instructors who lack the enthusiasm or perhaps the authority to go beyond the simulator syllabus. In most cases syllabus training is about ticking the boxes and then get the hell out of the simulator and go home. The syllabus for type ratings and recurrent training is strictly laid down in company operations manuals and it is often the case where the "student" complains if the simulator instructor dares to think beyond the square and actually try to teach real flying rather than full and blind use of all available automatics at all times. Simulator instructors must encourage manipulative handling skills including pattern altitude and high altitude stall recoveries in IMC and unusual attitude recoveries.

Posted by: John Laming | June 1, 2009 6:31 AM    Report this comment

Does anyone go looking for the most expensive airline ticket? Everything else being equal, most people would think it foolish to take a more expensive ticket when cheaper alternatives are available.

Let's say though that airline tickets did arbitrarily become more expensive. Why would you believe that money would end up in pilots' pockets? Airlines pay pilots low starting wages because there are people who are willing to work for those wages. If airlines were able to get more for their tickets, that money would go to shareholders, not wage earners who have already named their price. That's the way our economy works.

Every system setup to determine the price of anything, including labor, in other that a free market has failed. And every one of those experiments were undertaken because someone thought their judgment of what something was worth was superior to the many other people who were involved in the transaction.

Posted by: Keith West | June 1, 2009 7:18 AM    Report this comment

Keith's right - no-one would buy tickets from the more expensive airline, because it's impossible to know if they'd spent the extra income on training (or better maintenance). You can't fault the public for buying the cheapest of the tickets available, if all airlines & aircraft are deemed to be equally safe.

I'm not sure how to go about increasing pilot salaries. But duty hours, training requirements (including time on type and washing out those who fail checkrides) can all be dealt with by increasing regulation. The ticket price will reflect the cost of the increased level of regulation.

But ... commercial flights aren't raining from the skies, are they? So it could be argued that the present level of training, salaries, etc. is fine (this must be what the FAA thinks, and airline management, presumably?). Personally, I disagree - it should be possible to continue to improve the system to the point where accidents are even rarer than they are now.

Posted by: Ceri Reid | June 1, 2009 8:09 AM    Report this comment

You wrote: "And I'll reveal a bias here by saying that the Navy rightly teaches pilots that pitch controls airspeed and power controls altitude, not the other way around, as many GA pilots are wrongly taught. "

But anyone who has read Stick and Rudder (as well as most of the other basic/intermediate training materials) knows that!

- David

Posted by: leave blank | June 1, 2009 9:22 AM    Report this comment

Paul,

Cheap customers are the core cause? I don't buy that. Most consumers (I won't say EVERY because I'm sure there are exceptions) shop for the best deal on the products they buy. Why would airline tix be any different? If the consumer has really driven the economics behind the cheap fare, then why can't the consumer drive down the cost of movie tickets, or the popcorn at the movie?

Glass cockpits can be extremely distracting. Maybe there are instructors out there not focusing enough on flying the airplane while looking OUTSIDE the aircraft? Teaching someone how to recover from stalls in a glass panel should not differ from teaching someone how to recover from stalls on steam-gages. Maybe there has just been a loss of emphasis on actually flying the airplane and too much placed on the glass?

Posted by: David Brown | June 1, 2009 9:23 AM    Report this comment

Scott, think about what you said. " AOA probe which couldn't detect excessive AOA ". You're confusing the issue when you bring the tailplane into the picture. What flying surface is being monitored by the AOA ?

FAA is, and has always been blind to AOA as a primary indication to replace airspeed. Read some history on visionary people who tried to bring AoA to general aviation aircraft. Practically, AoA can't supplant the airspeed indicator but it does superbly at supplementing it. An ASI is to select flap and gear speeds, cruising speeds, initial approach speeds etc. But on final the ASI can be ignored if a properly calibrated AoA is installed.

Either instrument is totally useless if you do not look at it and respond to its message re: Colgan crew.

Posted by: John Phillips | June 1, 2009 10:14 AM    Report this comment

Let's face it, everything is related to economics. Since I got my first airline seat 42+ years ago, the advent of computers, simulators and training devices has made training "more effective" and "focused". The training that is provided is much more effective than it was when you sat in a unairconditioned classroom in August, trying to stay awake while the instructor droned on.

"Focused", can be another word for "limited". Limited to the minimum necessary to "pass the check" (pilots, pilot unions and management all like that idea) so the training is accomplished in minimum time.

Certainly, I would not like to see a return to the day when I was supposed to be able to quote tire pressures and wheel torques, and never actually air up the tires or torque the wheels, but I think the pendulum has swung too far in the wrong direction.

Simulators are wonderful devices, but they can't and don't teach everything, but they are a heck of a lot better than the actual aircraft as a training device.

When a simulator is built, they are built to a particular standard and with particular maneuvers in mind. That circumstance also limits the training given to the students.

Simulators are great at teaching expected emergencies and normal procedures and how to run the automation and the autopilot. Simulators could provide additional valueable experiences, but most students are only taught "how to pass the check". Thereby controlling the training cost.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | June 1, 2009 10:53 AM    Report this comment

How much of this episode was a training problem, and how much a currency problem? I've given BFR's to a lot of experienced pilots, including several recently ex-military, who try to arrest an imminent stall by pulling back on the yoke. Most of the time, they freely admit to knowing better during the post-mortem, but haven't flown anywhere but the center of the envelope for several years, and have lost the proper reflexes for slow flight. Does anyone know whether the airline's recurrent training included stall recovery?

On the other hand, its silly to blame the public for airline economics. I just spent 40 some hours on a series of flying cattle cars. Although I paid "regular" coach class fares (several thousand dollars), I got the same seat in the same airplane with the same pilots and ground crew as the 300 lb woman with the 3 screaming kids who paid $800 for the same tickets. If someone would offer better service, I'd gladly pay a premium for it, but there's no such option available, so why shouldn't I go as cheaply as possible?

Posted by: Merl Raisbeck | June 1, 2009 12:06 PM    Report this comment

Firstly, it's incorrect to state that AOA controls speed and power controls altitude. I'll never forget a former Lear test pilot who once responded to a young flight instructor's assertions of those "axioms" by saying, "OK, young man, I'll tell you what. Let's go fly my Lear, and when we get out on the runway, you flip the elvators as fast as you can ..and you let me know when we have enough airspeed and then I'll add power and increase our altitude!" The fact is there is an interdependent relationship between attitude and power that results in flight. The REASON student pilots are taught that AOA controls speed is in order to overcome their long-held automotive experiences that POWER controls speed. We must teach ATTITUDE so strongly in order OVERCOME the errors carried into aviation from automobiling.

Stalls... What a subject! I've already mentioned that I am a simulator instructor-pilot and designated examiner at a major flight-training facility. (I don't want to bring my employer's name into this, but you ALL would know who I work for instantly if I mentioned the company name.)

Posted by: George Horn | June 1, 2009 12:21 PM    Report this comment

cont'd I primarily teach a particular, very popular corporate jet with a long history of good flying qualities. It is not a new-comer to the corporate, military, and civil aviation environs. STALLs in the airplane ARE TAUGHT WRONG! Not just by the facility I work for, but by EVERY facility that teaches that airplane. The FAA ...CONDONES the incorrect teaching. I personally have attempted a jihad at the workplace to stop teaching this erroneous method. I get nowhere. The mfr of the airframe specifies that intentional stalls will be performed between 10K and 18K MSL, and at low power settings, and that stick-shaker shall be the warning indication of stall onset, and that recovery shall be effected by sharp FORWARD CONTROL COLUMN movement. (Pitch down.) NO MENTION is made of increasing power application, nor is any required. Yet the syllabus at this and all other simulator-based FAR 142 schools teach clients to MAINTIAIN ALTITUDE AND APPLY POWER AND FLY OUT of the stall! And the FAA APPROVES of this teaching method DESPITE the contrariness it has with the Mfr's recommendations, and DESPITE the PTS (Practical Test Standards) allowance of a reasonable altitude-loss in performing stall recoveries. I mention this in order to bring attention to the failure of some modern teachings that have FAA approval.

Posted by: George Horn | June 1, 2009 12:22 PM    Report this comment

cont'd Next point: I've flown with, and trained numerous military pilots that have NO "seat of the pants" flying skills. In particular, pilots of a certain fighter-type are especially butt-dead in crosswinds. They have no concept of forward slips, no understanding of rudder, as the airplane with which they are most familiar has computer-driven flight controls which simply will not allow them to perform manuevers which are not programmed. They have NO experience in stalls or stall recovery. While military pilots generally have good training, the REAL advantage they have over civilian pilots as far as airlines go is... their training is well-DOCUMENTED! Further, the military carefully selects pilot-applicants, who are well-tested to determine suitability for training. Civilian pilots are not customarily required to do anything other than show up at the airport with a desire and a checkbook. The myriad of flight-schools are driven by the profit motive: they must get that client a pilot's certificate or they will not enjoy business success! The military does not have that same criteria, so the military will "weed out" the substandard pilot... while the substandard civilian-pilot can still successfully acquire a certificate ....and then go out and apply at the local commuter.

Posted by: George Horn | June 1, 2009 12:23 PM    Report this comment

cont'd If that commuter is pinching pennies, they'll hire the substandard pilot and put him/her in the FO postion to learn "on the job".

The answer isn't that military pilots are better than civilian pilots. EACH PILOT must be evaluated individually. There are many pilots of each variety that I've witnessed which are substandard performers in civilian flight operations. Military pilots expect and operate as if they have a huge support-operations. Civilian pilots are more independent and self-reliant. There are pros and cons to each. Each must be INDIVIDUALLY assessed. An F-16 pilot will kill himself in a C-421. A 421 pilot will die in a combat aircraft. They are like fish. A fresh-water fish cannot survive if plunged into salt-water. It takes climatization and training to make the conversion. But the sorry paycheck does not make a sorry pilot. The most well-paid pilots kill themselves when they don't pay attention, same as low-paid pilots. We ALL have the same desire to live, and no one commits fatal-errors based upon salary. Sorry training and sorry evaluation processes do that. And that's where cheap airline tickets contribute to the problem. An airline, like any business, will cut costs where they can, and they consider the FO-position a place where OJT happens! WRong Attitude! And the FAA has got to QUIT approving flight training syllabus's which violate mfr's recommendations and known good operating practices.

Posted by: George Horn | June 1, 2009 12:24 PM    Report this comment

As the airspeed was decreasing and the auto pilot was increasing pitch to maintain altitude, was trim also increasing? If so, when the autopilot disingaged, would the "up" trim cause the airplane to remain in the "pitch up" attitude requiring the pilot to struggle to lower the pitch attitude?

Posted by: Jimmy Wyatt | June 1, 2009 2:29 PM    Report this comment

Agreed airline ticket prices are responsible for the mess we are in. (kinda like inverse suppply side economics). We SHOULD re-regulate. Airlines could make money again. Pilots and crews could be paid well. Air travel could be enjoyable again. Smaller cities could be served again. So the volume of air travel is reduced. Is this a bad thing, considering that our system was about saturated and in need of some expensive remodeling?

I never understood the pitch/airspeed controversy. I've never been able to do one without the other.

Posted by: Larry Wilson | June 1, 2009 2:49 PM    Report this comment

As to the trim question at autopilot disconnect. That is not what the data says. According to the FDR, the pilot was pulling, not pushing.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | June 1, 2009 3:00 PM    Report this comment

I went through Air Force flight training almost 40 yrs ago, and was fortunate in having an outstanding instructor. One of the most valuable lessons he taught me is that you cannot stall a wing at zero Gs and that as you decrease G from wherever you are towards zero, the stall speed keeps decreasing. This lesson saved my life several times in combat and once while flying my Mooney with my wife and children on board. Also he taught me that at low airspeeds and high angles of attack,the rudder can be much more effective than ailerons at rolling the aircraft (of course you have to keep the aircraft unloaded so you don't stall it and wind up in a spin because of the rudder input.) The key of course is to know your aircraft well, and recognize the feedback that it gives you. Finally, I agree with the previous post stating that the emphasis on not losing altitude in simulator stall recoveries is just plain stupid.

Posted by: Vicente Collazo-Davila | June 1, 2009 4:03 PM    Report this comment

Regarding pitch=airspeed and power=altitude (or vice/versa), try flying a glider sometime. I believe you will find that pitch controls airpspeed (Good luck on the power part). However, as noted in an earlier post, one "rule" does not apply to all. The answer is: it depends (on lots of things). Now we can go back to the serious stuff like, what is better...a tail dragger or a nose wheel; crabbing or slipping; Pipers or Cessnas; Fords or Chevys; ad nauseum.

As for the Colgan flight, it's a terrible story. Maybe, hopefully, when all of the investigation is over we can all learn something positive from a tragic event.

JLH

Posted by: Jimmy Hamilton | June 1, 2009 5:03 PM    Report this comment

I am a student pilot. My instructor refused to let me actually stall a C-152. At the first sign of a mush the wheel went forward. Fortunately I have some T-6 time in my past and I have actually stalled an a/c. Our training is broken.

Posted by: Donald H Dinwiddie | June 1, 2009 5:33 PM    Report this comment

Scott, I think you missed my point. Most of the pilot's time was in an aircraft that was suseptible to tailplane stalls and thus his training was focused on that recovery technique. I'm suggesting that that training may have been the muscle memory that took over in this case and therefore pulled rather than pushed.

Chris, We are limited to the number of characters in each post. I had to edit out about a paragraph from my original draft. Yes there is ice in Florida; and you can find it flying along the equator in the right conditions and altitudes. But at 2-6K MSL, even in Florida, it is very rare indeed.

The point is, lack of training. He had no business being left seat without the training and experience

Another thought. Everone seems to suggest that the Captain is the one to pull on the yoke. Could it have been the FO? Hmmm.

Posted by: Roger Dugan | June 1, 2009 8:17 PM    Report this comment

Instead of shaking the yoke, the "stick shaker" system should just recover from the impending stall automatically by forcing the yoke forward until the aircraft recovers from the stall. And what organization is it that can't see this as the obvious solution? The FAA, of course.

Incidentally, in "Stick and Rudder", Langewiesche suggested that a chain be connected between the instrument panel and the yoke, so that the yoke cannot be pulled back into a stall position, and thus the wings cannot be stalled. Essentially the same solution as suggested above.

Posted by: James Morris | June 1, 2009 11:24 PM    Report this comment

I believe our training is broken and the worst part is that most pilots don't even know it. Spins aren't required and stalls are done with the ball centered. I've been flying for about 40 years and now fly a RV6-A. A lot of the fatalities in the RV6 have been on turn to final, a skidding stall. Two months ago I took upset recovery and spin training at APS in Phoenix. The best money I've ever spent. The point I'm trying to make is this. Until you actually do the stall and spin maneuvers, no amount of book or simulator training will make that knowledge part of your conditioned skills and automatic responses for stall avoidance and/or recovery.

Posted by: Sid Love | June 1, 2009 11:25 PM    Report this comment

I thought the discussion thread was on glass versus steam gauges?

I don't understand the thread and by the way. I am not a naval aviator, but I have always been taught the following axioms:

1. Attitude plus power equals performance and 2. Elevator controls airspeed and power controls vertical speed.

I do believe that those two elements are still in the training syllabus and have not been removed.

Posted by: Christopher Basham | June 2, 2009 12:25 AM    Report this comment

George Horn is worth reading twice. Full of sage observations. His comments on stall recovery are correct. Lowering the nose recovers virtually instantly, adding power before lowering the nose or not lowering the nose takes a very finite time in a prop driven plane and even longer in a pure jet. Kudos, George.

Posted by: John Phillips | June 2, 2009 12:39 AM    Report this comment

Roger Dugan: "Another thought. Everone seems to suggest that the Captain is the one to pull on the yoke. Could it have been the FO? Hmmm."

The captain was grunting, the FO was raising the flaps and asking if the gear should be up.

Posted by: Mike Holshouser | June 2, 2009 10:53 AM    Report this comment

How we get instructors that are afraid to stall a Cessna is a shock. Flight instructors are supposed to demonstrate spins during their training and have it signed off by their flight instructors.

I know some schools, even in years past, were concerned about allowing their airplanes to be spun because if the possible damage to gyro instruments, especially after the ability to "cage" the instruments disappeared in the 1960's. Have we all become victims of the fragile equipment?

It doesn't really matter, it is not a subject for negotiation. Instructor students are supposed to be able to demonstrate spins. PERIOD!

If they can understand and demonstrate spins, stalls; all kinds of stalls shouldn't be that tough to understand. If they are understood, they should not be a subject for irrational concerns.

To Mr. Dinwiddie, if your instructor has this large a gap in his aviation knowledge and experience, you might ask, what else is he missing in his aviation knowledge. It is not an unreasonable question. Minimally trained and qualified instructors are not likely to create optimumly trained pilots.

Posted by: THOMAS OLSEN | June 2, 2009 12:11 PM    Report this comment

If you are worried about private pilots in training not knowing about spins, send them up here to Canada. We still practise spins as part of the private pilot curriculum.

My instructor was nice enough to spread the spins over several lessons, letting me just enjoy the ride and freak out the first time.

Syllabus, Ex 13 (TP975): http://www.tc.gc.ca/civilaviation/general/Flttrain/planes/Pubs/TP975/PartII/Ex13.htm

Posted by: James DeLaHunt | June 3, 2009 2:08 AM    Report this comment

Why can't we just say it's good management of pitch and power. Who the hell cares what controls what.

Jody Keydash

Posted by: Jody Keydash | June 4, 2009 4:40 PM    Report this comment

Of interest to me, and hopefully others, is the widely overlooked subject of ergonomics. Someone mentioned earlier the airspeed tape. Has anyone else noticed that the prevailing method of airspeed display directly contradicts the altitude display? Sure, both numbers go up (in every sense), but why? On the altimetry tape, you pull to get bigger numbers, and push to get smaller ones. On the airspeed tapes of late, the exact opposite is true. Why do we confuse ourselves with bad design like this?

Posted by: ian farmer | June 8, 2009 1:54 PM    Report this comment

I was trained (as a civilian) by a Navy aviator. He had procedures for everything and we flew by the numbers all the time. First stop was the gouge and adjust from there. In the 20 years since that training I have spent much time with non-military flight instructors and the experience is so completely different. To this day I fly like he taught me to fly -- find the gouge fly the numbers and yes, pitch controls airspeed and power controls altitude!

Posted by: Kingsley Hill | June 10, 2009 6:30 PM    Report this comment

A tailplane stall would NOT (and should not) trigger the stick shaker, because the appropriate response to tail plane stall is exactly opposite the immediate action for a main wing stall (for which the stick shaker does work).

The problem is that the onset of tail plane stall is characterized by a shaking of the yoke (caused by disturbed air over the elevator), then as the problem gets worse the yoke is pulled out of the pilot's hand as the tail-plane stalls. Sound familiar? Very much the same effect on the yoke that the stick shaker has.

If the problem started or worsened when the flaps were deployed it further supports the tail-plane stall supposition since the flaps should LOWER the stall speed of the main wing and cause further disturbance to flow over the tail plane. Did the pilot erroneously interpret this (rather compelling) data/events as a tail stall when in fact the main wing was stalling?

Posted by: Kingsley Hill | June 10, 2009 7:02 PM    Report this comment

James Morris, ... your suggestion to have all aircraft be equipped with stick-pushers is not a good solution, in my opinion. Stick pushers are usually req'd in aircraft which do not have good deep-stall-recovery characteristics. Stick "shakers" are usually a stall "warning" device...not a stall "identification" device. In other words, a shaker equates to a horn/light in other aircraft, usually because the airframe has little or no natural buffet. The shaker mimics airframe buffet to warn the pilot of the impending stall. A pusher prevents a pilot from intentionally stalling an aircraft. Aircraft which have good stall-recovery characteristics would be poorly-served by a pusher. A "chain" or such hardware would limit a pilot's choices in some circumstances. (Tail plane stalls would be more difficult to recover with a mandatory pusher or "chain" as a stall-preventative.)

Posted by: George Horn | July 9, 2009 1:27 AM    Report this comment

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