Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Aerial Phobias

Aviation’s bogeymen, and how to handle them

Every flight is made up of different regimes, and the training should include developing procedures that address the different needs of each: During takeoff roll, right after liftoff, during climbout, enroute and during approach. The actual steps in preparation are:

• Develop a plan of action for every part of the flight profile. Constantly ask yourself, “What will I do if the engine quits here? Where would I put it?”
• Mentally review each of those plans of action before shoving the throttle forward. On each takeoff, assume the engine is going to quit, so you’re not caught flat-footed and we know where we’re going to put the airplane and how we’re going to get it there.
• During each flight, make sure the instructor unexpectedly closes the throttle at different places in the pattern on each takeoff or landing.
• While at cruising altitude, let the instructor kill the power, forcing us to go through the choreography necessary to set up a more or less standard approach to what looks like an appropriate place to land. The ability to plan ahead and set up a proper approach from altitude can’t be developed intellectually. We need to practice gliding down from altitude while figuring out how many and what kinds of turns are required to put us in a standard downwind position to our proposed landing spot.
• When making normal landings, practice power-off approaches from downwind so that we know how far the airplane will glide. This way, we develop the visual references we’ll require in a lost-engine situation. If we habitually fly power-on approaches, and we then lose the engine, we’ll be on a test flight because we don’t really know the airplane’s gliding characteristics.


Even though it continually haunts us, the ever present stall/spin accident isn’t something to be feared. It’s something to be prevented. And no accident is more preventable.

To stall/spin an airplane, two major mistakes must be made at the same time. First, the nose is allowed to come up far enough that the airplane stalls. This is pretty basic, but depending on the airplane and the flap configuration, the nose may not even be above the horizon. Our instructor is going to work us hard to recognize what the windshield is telling us in terms of airspeed trends.

The second mistake is that the ball is driven off-center by the inappropriate use of rudder and aileron. Both mistakes fall under the heading of sloppy flying, but put together at the wrong time, they can be lethal. So we train, and then we practice, to eliminate those bad habits.

The normal way a stall/spin accident happens is as follows: The pilot overshoots final and tightens the bank to turn back. Realizing the bank is becoming much higher than normal, he applies outside (opposite) aileron to keep it from increasing. He then applies rudder into the turn to keep it turning. Both actions drive the ball far to the outside. The nose is allowed to drift up, the speed bleed-off accentuated by the increased drag coming from the severe yaw condition. The airplane stalls and rolls to the inside of the turn (toward the down rudder) and tries to enter a spin.


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