The Light Airplane Pilot's Guide to Stall/Spin Awareness

Rich StowellGuest Writer: Rich Stowell
Master CFI-Aerobatic
FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
Western-Pacific Region CFI of the Year 1993
IAC President’s Award — 1994 & 2000
23,200 Spins, 14,400 Landings, 6,300 Hours

Available from APS – Call Today 1-866-359=4273

The Light Airplane Pilot’s Guide to Stall/Spin Awareness
Rich Stowell, Master CFI

This book combines 100 years of light airplane research with practical knowledge about the post-stall environment into one of the most comprehensive guides to Stall/Spin Awareness available (details below).

  • Who’s the most at risk of a stall/spin accident

  • What your instructor may not know about stalls & spins

  • The physiology & human factors involved with spinning

  • Stall/spin dynamics & critical flight operations

  • Important advice from experts & researchers

  • The truth about manufacturer-supplied information

  • How to take charge of your stall/spin education

  • The Twelve Most Popular Stall/Spin Myths Exposed

(Call 480-279-1881 x12 to order)

“The Light Airplane Pilot’s Guide to Stall/Spin Awareness is an unparalleled resource in the flight training industry. In our courses of training, we call this book “The Stall/Spin Bible”. As a minimum, every single CFI in the country needs to read this book cover-to-cover followed immediately with quality hands-on flight training.”

Paul BJ Ransbury, President
APS Emergency Maneuver Training
Master CFI-Aerobatic

Because of our longstanding relationship with Master Aerobatic Instructor Rich Stowell, only APS is to bring to you the first published excerpt from Rich’s upcoming new book entitled, The Light Airplane Pilot’s Guide to STALL/SPIN AWARENESS. Please review this article and participate in our survey for a special APS newsletter member offer.

The following is excerpted from Chapter 1 of Rich’s 20 Chapter treatise, which is scheduled for publication later this year (reprinted with permission, Copyright © 2004 by Rich Stowell):

Scope of The Stall/Spin Awareness Problem

“I know of only one area of ignorance which was decreed by regulation and which government has sponsored ever since – spin training.” – Roger Boggs, FAA Accident Investigation Staff (retired), testifying on the subject of spin training before a Congressional Subcommittee in 1980.

In the decades following this scathing indictment, not much has changed to reverse the steady erosion in the theoretical and practical stall/spin knowledge of the average pilot. As we move into our second century of powered flight, examples of the systemic nature of our stall/spin education problem abound:

1990:A new, 90-minute aviation videotape is released, 34 minutes of which is devoted to stalls and spins. The reviewer for one aviation publication concludes that the stall and spin sections are “the worst parts,” claiming they represent “private views [that] diverge from current official doctrine.” This even though the video project’s technical consultant was, among other things, a former Lockheed test pilot and National Flight Instructor of the Year. The Assistant Head, Flight Research Branch, Flight Applications Division, at NASA also reviewed the stall/spin portion of the script to ensure it was consistent with NASA stall/spin research. Actual spin test footage provided by NASA was inserted into the videotape as well. Furthermore, key stall/spin information in the presentation could be linked to specific passages in AC 61-21A, the FAA’s Flight Training Handbook.

1992: A survey of 513 civilian flight instructors and 28 designated pilot examiners is published. Overall, the instructors and examiners demonstrate marginal knowledge about stall dynamics and unsatisfactory knowledge about spin dynamics. In addition, ninety-eight percent note that the spin training they received as part of flight instructor certification consisted of no ground instruction and a total of two spin entries. Ninety-five percent received no training in common scenarios that lead to inadvertent spins. Ninety-four percent did not understand airplane spin test requirements or the limitations imposed as a result of those tests.

1997: During an Internet discussion about spins in a popular aviation newsgroup, an instructor who claims to have done over a thousand spins repeatedly refers to the NASA general aviation spin test program as “obscure” because he’s never heard of it. This in spite of an extensive NASA program that encompassed nearly a decade, involved four representative single-engine airplanes subjected to many thousands of spin turns, and resulted in the publication of more than 100 technical papers and articles. The NASA program pushed leading edge cuff technology as well-technology that would later appear on the Lancair Columbia and the Cirrus SR-20/22.

2002: Commenting on a spin accident involving a state-of-the-art airplane, a respected writer for a prominent aviation magazine offered: “Just don’t let airspeed get below a safe value and stalls are not a problem.” This is a nonsensical statement indeed, especially since pilots are constantly advised that stalls can and do occur at any airspeed and in any attitude. Given that many airplane flight manuals list a host of different stall speeds corresponding to various aircraft configurations, and given that the flight environment is always changing, and given that pilots continue to stall inadvertently at different airspeeds, what exactly constitutes “a safe value” for airspeed?

2002: A newly-minted Private Pilot admits in an e-mail, “I am uncomfortable flying alone because I did not receive a lot of training dealing with spins and stalls. Actually my only stall training was the day before my check ride.” The negligence of this pilot’s flight instructor is appalling; the ignorance of the Designated Pilot Examiner, astounding. Sadly, too many pilots can tell similar stories.

Good information and training have always been available. They just don’t permeate general aviation. Further illustrating this point, the FAA implemented sweeping changes to stall/spin training requirements in 1991. Timed with these changes was publication of a well-written Advisory Circular, AC 61-67B. But as the earlier examples indicate, pilots have not been receiving the stall/spin awareness training mandated by the FAA. Moreover, fewer than ten percent of pilots queried during a number of FAA safety seminars conducted across the U.S. since 1991 have received a copy of either AC 61-67B (or its current version, AC 61-67C) as part of their stall/spin education.

Learning to exercise better judgment is an important part of the stall/spin awareness equation, too, especially when it comes to avoiding scenarios that lead to deadly stall/spin accidents. Yet good judgment often evolves as a result of useful learning experiences. For example, though many pilots might understand intellectually that an airplane can stall at any airspeed and in any attitude, their practical stall experience usually consists of performing a contrived, wings-level stall to a Practical Test Standard.

Such limited stall experience, however, imparts little practical experience vis-à-vis real-world stall/spin accident scenarios. Consequently, too many pilots simply don’t realize how close they may be to spinning an airplane when skidding a turn in the traffic pattern, perhaps while attempting to return to the runway following an engine failure on takeoff, or after overshooting the turn onto final. Nor are pilots aware how close they may be to a stall/spin departure when performing that seemingly harmless buzz job or other “dumb stunt” close to the ground.

Most pilots probably spend less than five percent of their total flight time practicing the art of slow flight, reviewing critical flight operations, and running through emergency procedures. It’s clear, however, that pilots need to practice these elements with far more regularity. On average, pilots spend just six percent of their flight time in the critical phases associated with the traffic pattern-takeoff, initial climb, approach, and landing. These phases, however, account for a dramatically disproportionate fifty-seven percent of aviation accidents.

Whether or not pilots know how to recover from a spin is a moot point in the majority of stall/spin accidents-insufficient altitude remains for recovery where inadvertent stall/spins are normally encountered. But bona fide stall/spin training, though such training might include performing intentional spins as part of the overall training strategy, must also stress the warning signs that precede inadvertent stall/spins. Once learned, pilots must remain committed to practicing their stall/spin awareness skills; otherwise, the wherewithal to prevent an accidental spin departure will be compromised.

More Information: APS has a number of Rich’s videos and his Emergency Maneuver Training book in stock in our pilot shop. We’ll also stock his new book as soon as it becomes available. In the meantime, please give us feedback on your interest in Rich’s new book:

So what is your best defense in aircraft unusual attitude or upset conditions?

  1. First, attempt to avoid conditions that can induce unusual attitudes in the first place! Steer clear of thunderstorms and wake turbulence! Avoid IMC or flight into low visibility conditions if not properly certificated and trained. Avoid distractions.
  2. Second, get the proper training. According to an article in AW&ST (May 8, 1995 issue): “Training should include flights in aerobatic aircraft to practice recovery techniques because no simulator can model the disorientation of actually being upside down… recurrent training every two years, with time in an actual aircraft, would be a good start.” Regardless of the aircraft that you fly, proper training will enable you to learn to react decisively in a high-pressure environment, and to learn proper recovery techniques to avoid a “panic” response that could worsen the situation.
  3. Contact a APS – Emergency Maneuver Training representative. Certainly, we would like to take this opportunity to recommend our program at APS which offers several course layouts to choose from. Please give us a call a 1-866-FLY-HARD and ask to speak with a flight training specialist or submit the online form below for more information today!
  4. If you are attending the NBAA Convention this week in Orlando 10-12 Sep 02, representatives of the APS – Emergency Maneuver Training Program will be at Booth #1604. It would be our pleasure to speak with you about our training program and how APS can customized its services to meet your specific needs.

Get this training somewhere. The life you save may be more than just your own.

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