Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Aerial Phobias

Aviation’s bogeymen, and how to handle them

The procedures that will help prevent the above include:

• NEVER try to correct overshooting the centerline. If we consistently go around because we’ve cut through the centerline, we’ll eliminate the root cause of stall/spin accidents.
• Keep track of the nose attitude in the windshield and cross-check your airspeed often.
• Feel yaw trying to move our butts across the seat, indicating that the ball is well off-center. Cross-check the ball and fly coordinated.
• Learn to fly the windshield, be aware of the feeling of yaw in our butt and practice a consistent airspeed crosscheck, and we’ll never stall/spin an airplane.


Think back to your first stall: We heard the engine come to what sounds like a complete stop, then the airplane waffles around and regardless of what we do, the nose falls. We’re out of control and we don’t like it a single bit. We’re not supposed to like it. But we’re supposed to recognize and control it. And that takes practice.
As kids, it’s what’s hiding under the bed. As adults, it may be spiders, high places or the IRS. Pilots have their own special bogeymen, some of which we know as stalls, crosswinds, stall/spins and engine failures.
Our specialized flight instruction should include at least 1½ hours investigating the low end of the speed envelope, while developing a feeling for all the different stall scenarios. We all saw them when students, but few of us have practiced them since. Not good! We need to know how the windshield looks, when a full-flap stall happens with the nose nearly level (none of us is likely to accidentally pull the nose as high as we saw during student practice). We want to know how it feels and what it sounds like. And we want to do it in turns. And with power on in slow-speed turns.

Next, we should do some slow flight, both clean and dirty, right at stall speed, and fly the airplane in and out of stall buffet. We want to feel the airplane right at the edge of stall, so, if we’re flying a short-field approach, we know when we’re getting too slow without looking. Still, in the real world, we should be cross-checking the IAS, using it to fine-tune the nose attitude and watching for any slow-down trends.


Crosswinds are the most commonly encountered aviation bogeymen and, because they’re part of our daily life, they’re the ones we should work the hardest to get under control. Fortunately, although most wind-phobic pilots won’t believe this, crosswind skills are usually the most easily developed and can actually be fun.

The specialized training should include at least two hours, preferably more, during which we seek out increasingly nasty crosswinds and stride right into the teeth of the devil. This training will be the best proficiency investment you’ll ever make.


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