Demonstrating, Teaching, and Practicing Stalls

Debates about how to teach, practice, and demonstrate stalls continue, usually vociferously, after more than century of powered flight. In the U.S., FAA guidance on the topic has evolved to the current standards, described in the Airmen Certification Standards and the references (viz., handbooks and ACs) that expand on the tasks applicants are required to demonstrate.

Airplane Flying Handbook, Figure 4-7
Private Pilot ACS Task VII

Of course, the ACS is not a syllabus–a detailed sequence of lessons that describes the training required for a certificate or rating. The ACS is the guide examiners use during a practical test to determine whether an applicant is qualified for a new piloting privilege. The ACS samples an applicant’s knowledge and skill. It is the final exam, not the course.

The current edition of the Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3B) includes detailed descriptions of the stall tasks in the ACS for private pilot and commercial pilot applicants. But that guide also offers guidance to flight instructors about how to introduce and teach stall-related skills. For example:

The practice of impending stalls is of particular value in developing the pilot’s sense of feel for executing maneuvers in which maximum airplane performance is required. These maneuvers require flight in which the airplane approaches a stall, but the pilot initiates recovery at the first indication, such as by a stall warning device activation. Impending stalls may be entered and performed in the same attitudes and configurations as the full stalls or other maneuvers described in this chapter. However, instead of allowing the airplane to reach the critical AOA, the pilot must immediately reduce AOA once the stall warning device goes off, if installed, or recognizes other cues such as buffeting. Hold the nose down control input as required to eliminate the stall warning. Then level the wings maintain coordinated flight, and then apply whatever additional power is necessary to return to the desired flightpath. (AFH FAA-H-8083-3B, 4-8)

Unfortunately, many CFIs still introduce stalls by jumping right into demonstrating the power-off and power-on stalls as described in the ACS. Those demos often confuse and frighten students, and as the Aviation Instructor’s Handbook emphasizes, if you’re scared, you can’t learn.

A previous edition of the AFH offered additional, detailed advice about how to introduce stalls:

Usually, the first few practices should include only approaches to stalls, with recovery initiated as soon as the first buffeting or partial loss of control is noted. In this way, the pilot can become familiar with the indications of an approaching stall without actually stalling the airplane. Once the pilot becomes comfortable with this procedure, the airplane should be slowed in such a manner that it stalls in as near a level pitch attitude as is possible. The student pilot must not be allowed to form the impression that in all circumstances, a high pitch attitude is necessary to exceed the critical angle of attack, or that in all circumstances, a level or near level pitch attitude is indicative of a low angle of attack. Recovery should be practiced first without the addition of power, by merely relieving enough back-elevator pressure that the stall is broken and the airplane assumes a normal glide attitude. The instructor should also introduce the student to a secondary stall at this point. Stall recoveries should then be practiced with the addition of power to determine how effective power will be in executing a safe recovery and minimizing altitude loss. (FAA-H-8083-3B, 4-5)

Here’s an example of that technique during a flight with a student in my Extra 300L, a high-performance aerobatic airplane.

I always show pilots the basic stall characteristics of the airplane before we move on to accelerated stalls, incipient spins, and the like.

You can find a series of videos that show stalls and spins at my YouTube channel, here.

If more instructors would follow that advice when introducing slow flight and stalls, perhaps we’d see fewer articles such as Be Afraid of Stalls, that advocate omitting stalls from pilot training, and more pilots would understand how best to avoid the stalls that result in accidents.

VFR Charts Moving to 56-Day Update Cycle

FAA plans to update VFR Sectional, Terminal Area, Flyway Planning and Helicopter Route Chart series on the 56-day AIRAC cycle beginning in February 2021.

(AIRAC=Aeronautical Information Regulation And Control. The data cycle dates are set by international agreement. The FAA product schedule is here. The dates of the latest editions of VFR charts are available here.)

A briefing document provided to the Aeronautical Charting Meeting explains the change:

The life cycles of FAA-produced Visual Flight Rules (VFR) Charts vary from 168 days to two years and at one time various charts did not update for years longer (Helicopter and Grand Canyon for example).

Extended and unsynchronized life cycles create an undue burden on the NAS and on chart users. The NOTAM System must carry many facility NOTAMs until consistently charted. As a result, chart users are burdened with numerous NOTAMs and difficulty arises in identifying pertinent NOTAMs and correctly applying them. Numerous changes are alerted in Chart Supplement Chart Bulletins that many users either do not know exist and/or do not find readily accessible. Unsynchronized chart dates lead to inconsistent data capture on overlapping areas, adjacent charts and other chart products.

Producing 56-day VFR Charts will provide significant relief to a number of these issues. The NAS picture will be consistent with that reflected on Enroute, Terminal and Supplemental products. NOTAMs will be significantly reduced as charts will capture changes with every 56-day AIRAC cycle. Chart Supplement Chart Bulletins will no longer be necessary.

A few years ago, updating VFR charts every 56 days (new sectional charts have been on a 6-month revision cycle for decades) would have been a hassle. But in the EFB era, keeping charts current is trivial, and more frequent updates to VFR charts will keep them in sync with other sources, such as IFR low-altitude enroute charts.

FAA plans the following sequence of events to synchronize VFR charts with other products on the 56-day cycle:

Milestone #1 will synchronize the cutoff for VFR Charts with other aeronautical products. (June 18, 2020)

Milestone #2 will eliminate 28-Day AIRAC date VFR Charts to align with airspace amendments and will stage charts for 56-day AIRAC date production. (September 10, 2020)

Milestone #3 will realize full implementation of the 56-day update of VFR Charts and elimination of supporting Chart Supplement Chart Bulletins. (February 25, 2021)

The Empty Skies

A friend flying a 747 across the Atlantic from South America to Germany received this message from New York Oceanic control.