Top Letters And Comments, October 29, 2021


Can We Finally Prove The Impossible Turn Isn’t Impossible?

For 30 years I’ve taught–based on numerous exercises and flight with experts, and by putting hundreds of pilots through the exercise in a type-specific Beech Bonanza simulator–that the decision isn’t between “straight ahead” and “land on the reciprocal runway.” Instead, it is a range of possibilities that depend on the runway length, the weather and the pilot’s takeoff technique…and heavily dependent on the type of airplane.

For example, my experience is that the turnback to the runway is all but impossible in Beech Bonanzas from just about any altitude, unless the runway is extremely long, the winds are just right, and the pilot has substantial recent experience with the technique and executes it perfectly. In other words, it’s highly unlikely to be repeatable in the surprise of an actual emergency. However, it may be possible to turn up to 90 degrees and line up on a good option, or even make a full 180 degree turn and end up on the flat area of the airport grounds, depending on the current circumstances when the engine failure occurs. As height increases an ever-increasing range of options becomes available.

But at least in Bonanzas, completely losing an engine immediately after takeoff, making the 240 or more degrees of descending turn in the full Glide configuration, putting down the landing gear, touching down and rolling to a stop on the runway then calling the FBO to come tow the airplane in is the very LEAST likely outcome.

AOPA’s recent video confirms this for THIS TYPE of airplane. Two months ago I did this exercise with Scott “Gunny” Perdue as part of my annual Flight Review and confirmed that either the airplane is too low to turn and make it to the runway or, if high enough to line up, too far away to make it back to the pavement. Gunny recently videoed a repeat of the exercise in his F33C aerobatic Bonanza and reached the same conclusions. Both AOPA and Gunny join me in speculating this is because of the Bonanza’s wing loading and unusually high Best Glide speed, which increases the radius of the turn and therefore requires more time (and altitude) to align with the reciprocal runway.

We all accept that different types of airplanes have different takeoff, climb, cruise, low speed and landing performance. Yet in the context of this discussion often it seems it’s assumed that all airplanes glide alike, that the A36 I fly will turn back the same as the J3 flown by Paul.

Summing up: I’m very glad EAA is apparently going to sink significant resources into studying this. I hope as they do that they take the very type-specific differences of different airplanes into account when issuing conclusions and recommendations.

Thomas Turner

To me it’s like any other max performance maneuver: Trying to do it for the first time in a real emergency is a really bad idea. If you’ve trained and practiced for it in your specific aircraft you should know whether or not it’s possible, and if it is you should include it in every takeoff briefing.

Mark Sletten

How I Stalled On The Base Turn (And Got Away With It)

Modern flight safety philosophies embrace the idea that pilots will make errors because they are humans. The emphasis is therefore on proactively recognizing when errors could be consequential, and taking early and effective avoiding action. Critically there is also an emphasis on recovering from mistakes

With respect to Paul’s scenario the failure to recognize the distraction of looking at the hawk was the error, however the recovery was a result of the hands and feet skills that recognized the soft stick and interrupted the developing loss of control with immediate, instinctive and correct actions.

I think the flight training industry is trying to develop the the threat and error recognition piece but the problem is a continuing problem with aircraft control skills.

Weather used to be the big killer but in the last 5 years the number one cause of fatal accidents is loss of controlled flight

When training I spend time on slow flight with the ASI covered because I want the student to understand what the airplane is telling them with feel of the controls.

Technology absolutely has a place in aviation, but not in initial flight training. The manipulation of the controls based on what you feel and what you see out the windshield is the key to developing pilots who can take advantage of technology, not depend on it.

David Gagliardi

Another great video Paul, thank you. But a big takeaway for me, a low-time ASEL, is that a high timer can (A) still get lazy and (B) still fly with his head where he can see what he had for lunch. I was hoping after a few more hundred of hours I would be immune to such afflictions. It’s a lesson for me that no matter how many trees I cut down to fill logbooks I can still slip (pun intended) into bad technique. Thank you, Paul, for admitting and sharing your mistakes so I can learn from them.

Randall Karstetter

Poll: Have You Ever Inadvertently Stalled An Airplane?

  • As a former aerobatic pilot, I was well acquainted with the flight envelope of a number of different aircraft. And yes, I have inadvertently stalled, but not often. Usually, it was intentional.
  • I was a passenger in a plane that inadvertently stalled. The plane was destroyed but we all survived.
  • Many times trying to keep speed as low as possible while skydivers exit C182/185. No big deal, the nose starts bobbing up and down some. The only recovery before the jumpers let go of plane is to lower the nose since you don’t want to blast the jumpers with more power. Other than that I have not inadvertently stalled an airplane.
  • Yes, I did, after a slow speed roll to inverted followed by a split-S. Stalled it during the recovery. Had to reduce the AoA and let the airspeed build until I had enough energy for the 4G pull back to level flight. That was fun. Learned a lot.
  • As a glider pilot: Lots of times in rough thermals. Powered: Not yet.
  • Yes, as a student pilot. Luckily, I had enough altitude to avoid that big barn. Never forgotten lesson.
  • Paraglider. First training flight. Hauled both brake lines from ears to ass in one swell foop. 15 feet high over the beach. Excellent lesson in less is more. Almost bit my damn tongue off on impact. Instructor was perplexed. He said “I’ve just never seen anybody do that before …”
  • A couple inches above the runway.
  • When you’re a cropduster, you spend your workday extracting maximum performance from the airplane, which means that you’re on the edge of stall in every procedure turn all day long.
  • I recovered after dumping my load and flew home to remove the trees from the wing struts.
  • A pilot I was letting knock off some rust did it to me on my PIC. He was doing fine, till we were spin incipient and I was stamping a rudder to get us back upright.
  • Yes. Hit a thermal on short final 50 feet up. Recovered, but barely.
  • Ended up in the dirt – fortunate not injured.
  • Plenty of times in botched acro and mock combat. All at elevated load factor.
  • Never an airplane, but a thousand times while circling gliders slow and tight in small gusty thermals.
  • Yes, during flight training. Stalled and spun, but with an instructor who then decided to teach spins for the remaining duration of the flight.
  • Accelerated forward stall in a T-34A.
  • Crashed – totaled the aircraft – small cut on forehead.
  • Just once… inverted… didn’t quite have enough energy to make it over the top of a loop.
  • Yes, many times…whilst practicing (and teaching) MCA at safe altitudes. It’s the only way to really learn the stall behavior of an airplane.
  • Many times thermaling in my glider. Occasionally have incipient spins when it’s rough or I am really sloppy.
  • Had a student put us into an inadvertent spin. Training kicked in and it was a non-event.
  • Too slow, tailwind gust, impossible to arrest sink rate on landing. BAM. No damage though.
  • As a CFI, I take pilots with the “No how, No way” attitude and get them to do exactly that; inadvertently get into an accelerated stall.
  • Stalled at 10 feet, touched down before the wing could drop far.
  • Many stalls during aerobatics. Good reason to do them at altitude.
  • Yes, as a student pilot during slow flight training. After that, never.
  • Don’t we all “come close” during max-performance takeoffs or landings?
  • Glider, while thermalling, but it is routine to thermal very close to stall speed and be prepared to recover immediately.
  • Only while I was doing competition aerobatic practice during rolling turns. If you are too aggressive the wing will start snap rolling, which will disqualify you.
  • I stalled one wing of a poorly rigged Pitts while using rudder to correct for wind just before the flare. Left wing dropped, caught the spade in the grass, and ripped it off. Saved it though.
  • Takeoff with lackluster performance hot, high, heavy with pax and on the stall horn during departure sequence, but no stall.
  • Yes, while inverted.
  • Not too uncommon in a glider in a bumpy thermal.
  • Airplane destroyed; occupants survived.
  • Never, in 45 years of flying.
  • Inadvertent stalls? Plenty of times, fortunately inches or a couple of feet above terra-very-firma.
  • During training.
  • I have been guilty of carrying a bit too much airspeed in the pattern. Safety margin?
  • Not yet…

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  1. Stalled an old Tcraft BC12d upside down once. It made a strange groaning sound. Yikes. Stalled a T-38 pointed straight up with “0” indicated airspeed at nearly 40,000 feet. I had gone lost wingman when the sun blinded me while in close trail doing some sort of over the top thing inverted. As if by magic, I had bled off about 350 knots. Got yelled at by Fort Worth Center for popping out the top of the practice area but the flight controls only made the airframe shake until I got the nose pointed back down at West Texas. I finally spotted my lead and asked to rejoin but was sent RTB.oopsie.

  2. At night, IFRm iced up, hypoxic, tired and at 18,000 ft in a Cessna 185, and hours after a alternator failure. On a ferry flight in 1981 when I had 2,100 hrs and about 200 actual IFR. I’d left Athens for Luxor, Egypt (7.2 hours), gassed up at Luxor and departed for Nairobi, Kenya (15.2 hours). The trip had not been going well up to that point with maintenance and ADF problems. Shortly after departure from Luxor I lost the alternator, then I was denied overflight of the Sudan so of course I turned everything off including the master. I couldn’t return to Luxor because I was out of money and there was no maintenance anyhow. During daytime I could read the compass and DG but when it got to be night I had to set a course and pick a star to steer by. With the occasional reading off the Lodwar NDB. As the clouds built I had no choice but to climb to keep my stars in sight and I didn’t know after 10 hrs of dead reckoning how high the mountains were. Eventually I was near the tops of the clouds at 17,000-18,000 ft and getting more ice every time I went through a top. I flew into what I thought was a mountain wave or rotor and no manipulation of the controls would straighten me out. I turned on the master and landing light and all I could see were clouds and I remember thinking this will be brief but intense. About that time my spin training and practice kicked in and I thought “there is no more turbulence but just rotation”. Opposite rudder and leveling the wings flew me right out of it and it took a few minutes to slow my heart rate and let the Artificial Horizon settle down. Another few hours later I did a ILS into Jomo Kenyatta airport nearly out of gas at 3 AM and still had enough left in the battery to start up in the morning and move over to Wilson Airport for the delivery.