Recognize and Recover: Proficiency in airmanship maneuvers is key to avoiding the dreaded stall/spin.

Recognize and Recover: Proficiency in airmanship maneuvers is key to avoiding the dreaded stall/spin.

Recognize and Recover: Proficiency in airmanship maneuvers is key to avoiding the dreaded stall/spin.

Recognize and recover. That’s a phrase my first flight instructor taught me, and it’s a tool I’ve used ever since. He used it to impress upon me how important it was to hear, feel and understand (recognize) an impending stall and anticipate my response using pitch and power to recover. The ability to recognize and recover means you will never let a stall develop into an unintentional spin.

I always pass this lesson on to my students, but I do it with an added twist to the word recognize. I teach them to recognize any maneuver we are about to undertake as an everyday aspect of flying.

Let’s take the dreaded stall, for instance. The first time we approach a stall, I tell my student that what we are trying to accomplish is nothing more than a landing in the sky. The following series of stall maneuvers we practice effects a virtual landing that everyone loves to do:

  1. Configure the airplane without losing altitude until you have configured Vso 10 knots above a stall; 
  2. Make your clearing turn (slow flight); 
  3. Point the nose 3 degrees down (glide slope) on a heading; 
  4. Pull the power; 
  5. Round off and hold the plane off the invisible runway, watching airspeed bleed off until you hear the stall horn (squeezing right rudder for left turning tendency as speed slows) and squeezing back-pressure (flare) into the stall horn for a perfect landing (sorry, I mean coordinated stall). And what do you recover with? You guessed it: Pitch (push), Power (full), Gear/Flaps up (slowly with positive rate.)

Takeoff Stalls, Steep Turns & Go-Arounds

Here’s a situation where the power-on stall can be compared, quite simply, to an over-rotation during takeoff. It’s during touch-and-go that we see students pull back, regardless of airspeed, and stall back to the runway. So, let’s use “recognize and recover” to simulate a takeoff with too much back pressure. 

With take-off configuration Vs 10 knots above a stall or rotation speed and without losing altitude, complete clearing turns (slow flight). Depending on your plane, add full power and pitch up 8-10 degrees (trainer) or pitch up 8-10 degrees and add 75 percent power (high performance.) You will recognize the stall warning and inboard wing stall shudder and feel the heavy pressure on flight controls, signs that tell you your altitude is dropping rapidly. This recover is simple: Pitch (push) to get the wings flying again.

Steep turns are where the rubber meets the runway. If you can get your plane to stay at 45 degrees of bank and +/- 10 knots while siting the nose on the horizon with trim and a touch of power, take your hands mostly off the yolk while making minor inputs (nose rising, increase bank; nose dropping, decrease bank), thus maintaining altitude, bank, and airspeed. Congratulations, you PASS!

This maneuver is mostly dependent on airspeed because stall speed goes up with bank. If we can do a safe
45 to 60-degree steep turn, there is no reason why anyone should stall and spin on base to final.

We all teach how important go-arounds are. If you overshoot a runway on final, especially with a crosswind that is pushing you on base, simply use “recognize and recover” to turn your overshoot into a go-around. Realistically, what should be a go-around is often a pilot’s attempt to compensate and land no matter what. And because no amount of training seems to counter this, I make sure my students are aware of what they’re doing by correlating steep turns and base with final turns. We know we can complete a steep turn safely with sufficient airspeed. But what many pilots don’t know is why an overshoot base-to-final correction of only 30 degrees of bank and full bottom rudder (skid) can and will kill them. 

We teach to limit bank (less than 30 degrees) in the pattern for good reasons: mainly, to keep stall speed as low as possible. But what most pilots seem to come away with is “never turn more than 30 degrees, no matter what.” This gets people in trouble because they can’t fix the overshoot with only 30-degree bank, so they keep adding rudder to the turn until they are in a skid and feeling like they’re descending. Then they add back-pressure, slow to a stall, and spin.

I make it a point to tell my students I would rather see a 45-degree coordinated turn well above the increased stall speed, than a 30-degree turn with full bottom rudder leading to a spin any day, and I instruct/talk about it during steep turns.

Lazy Eights & Chandelles

Lazy Eights are great for teaching opposite rudder control for slips to landing. The top of a left-turning lazy eight actually needs right rudder to stay coordinated in a left-hand turn; how cool is that? Understanding how to fly with your feet during take-off and landing is a must, and lazy eights help bridge that connection.

Last but not least, Chandelles are performed as the fastest way to avoid terrain, so let’s visualize a mountain top coming out of the fog and performing the following maneuver: bank (30 degrees); power (full trainer/75% high performance); pitch 8-10 degrees (Vx takeoff); with a 180 degree turn, finishing 10 knots above stall warning and holding for 5 seconds.

Just like mnemonics and acronyms help learning, visualization of every day flying techniques helps us hone our flying skills so we can call upon them if anything out of the norm should arise. During any phase of flight, you can Recognize and Recover.  

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