Is traditional stall training a waste of time?

Air Facts magazine has recently posted an interesting question for readers regarding stall training that has already attracted nearly 60 comments. Specifically, Air Facts magazine asked:

Question: Most inadvertent stalls that result in serious accidents occur at an altitude too low for a recovery. Do you think this means that practicing stalls at altitude is a waste of time?

Student pilot Joseph Chambers responded by writing that he thinks stall training is worth it because it gets future pilots out of their comfort zone and lets them know whether they can calmly react when a flight goes outside of the normal flight parameters. He also added that you do not know how you will react the first time in a stall as it will be “quite a ride” if you were not “raised on airplanes.”

ConcernedPilot posted that if a student pilot is learning how to fly an aircraft but is never taught the full capabilities of an aircraft, he or she is being set up for failure because flying will never be an ideal situation every time. Moreover, ConcernedPilot noted that in more advanced flying situations such as bush flying, a pilot will often need to fly right at stall speed.

However, CFIChuck was one reader who disagreed with much of the prevailing wisdom that other commenters had posted. Specifically, he wrote that he thought that stall training is a hold-over from the World War II mindset and it isn’t worth practicing. CFIChuck pointed out that:

We don’t practice crash landing, after all–we simply learn not to do it. Same for stalls–there is no reason to ever stall, period, and practicing it is just checking the box. If you ever stall for real, it’s too late, you won’t recover.

He did add that its also important to learn what types of flying scenarios will make you more susceptible to a stall and how to avoid them but he feels it’s a bad investment to go up to 3,000 feet for “feeling the break.”

Hence, we want to ask you our readers what you think: Is stall training a waste of time? Moreover, are stalls something that every pilot needs to experience in the cockpit rather than just learn about in the classroom?

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8 Responses to Is traditional stall training a waste of time?

  1. Thomas P Turner September 7, 2011 at 11:49 #

    I think that Air France and the Colgan Air crash at Buffalo overwhelmingly prove not only do we need to teach stall recognition and recovery from full stalls, but that we need to emphasize them even more in recurrent training, even for full-time pilots. The best concert musicians still practice scales and fingering exercises to keep their skills sharp.

    I will say that the Practical Test Standards method of stall entry is a safe, elementary way to introduce and evaluate stalls, but that a good instructor must make stall training and angle of attack awareness more relevant to the scenarios that actually lead to stall-related crashes. The answer lies somewhere between rote practice of PYS-style stalls and Scenario-Based Training (SBT) that minimizes actual practice at high and critical angles of attack.

    Pilots need to realize that, whether they are flying for recreation or as a profession, that they must attain and then work to maintain a high level of proficiency. Stall practice is one element of a Pilot’s required continuing education.

  2. Don Quattlebaum September 7, 2011 at 11:52 #

    I personally think that Upset Recovery Training should be mandatory for all pilots. Knowing what happens when you skid in a slow turn will make you not want to do that ever again; much more so than the CFI telling you it's a bad idea.
    How many pilots know that the stall speed approaches zero when the g forces approach zero? All of these things will save your life. You had better know what to do when you stall, even low. If you get out of the stall and are too low, maybe your crash can be at least semi-controlled and you might live. Don't recover from the stall and there is no chance.
    AF447 is not the first plane to be stalled from altitude all of the way down. You can stall with a nose down attitude. Maybe we are just learning things "not to do", but proper training makes it more likely that you won't do those things.

  3. Brent September 7, 2011 at 11:56 #

    Stall recovery training is a waste of time? All stalls happen too low to recover from? Tell that to the passengers on Colgan 3407 and AF 447. Further, half the point of practicing stalls is in developing a perception of what the aircraft does and feels like as the aircraft approaches is a stall in order to help the pilot correct for an impending stall before it happens.

  4. Andrew September 7, 2011 at 12:32 #

    Matthew

    Thanks for yet another thought-provoking post. CFI Chuck has much more experience than me, but I can’t agree with his comment that we don’t practise crash landings. Where I did my training, we practise forced landings at least (though we didn’t crash at the end of each practice run). It’s all about recognising the condition and getting out of it alive, even if the aeroplane is destroyed.

    Surely part of the point of practising stalls at altitude is to recognise the onset and be able to avoid the full-blown stall, as much as it is about recovery. How many of those “inadvertent stalls that result in serious accidents occur at an altitude too low for a recovery” could have been avoided if the pilots had been better at recognising the incipient stall and avoided the full consequences?

    Tonet on the excellent blog ‘Flying in Crosswinds’ (http://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/), which I highly recommend, is
    writing a series of posts on stalls that are worth reading:
    http://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/a-serial-killer-is-stalking-me/
    http://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/death-by-ignorance/
    http://tonetcarlo.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/221652-0-hot-2-were-sound-of-scream/

    Thanks for a great blog,
    Andrew

  5. Fred Murre September 7, 2011 at 18:07 #

    I can see that stall training conducted in appropriate aircraft should be a requirement for advanced aeronauts including ATPs, but generally the larger airliners and anything with a swept wing, should be trained that stalling is verboten. AF447 might have been all but unrecoverable after it coffin-cornered.

    What was the doctrine for Soviet Mig-15 pilots? If you stalled and entered the spin, you had already screwed up to unacceptable extents, and you were to eject.

  6. Jamie Beckett September 8, 2011 at 03:13 #

    I’ll go out on a limb here and suggest that stall training is absolutely not a waste of time. In fact, it’s designed to be a lifesaver. You just have to be smart enough to know what the stall training actually demonstrates, and what you should take away from it.

    Initially, we all have a sense that stall training is about a mean weasel in the right seat who is trying to make us pee our pants or puke – either one will satisfy him (or her). Merely screaming like a little girl and crying inconsolably is insufficient. The CFI wants us to freak out completely. At least that’s what we think in the beginning.

    Later we realize that the stall is almost immaterial to the exercise. The goal is to recognize the stall quickly, take corrective action, and recover the airplane with as little altitude loss as possible. That’s a noble pursuit. We can feel good about ourselves when we master this task. You know you’re doing it right when you can confidently recover from a power on (departure) stall without having to do laundry as soon as you get home.

    Ultimately, we learn something a little more subtle, but far more important than our earlier, erroneous assumptions about stall training. If we really put our minds to it, and it’s even more effective training if we learn it well enough that no significant thought is required, we will learn to recognize the stall before it happens and take correct action immediately to prevent the stall from occurring at all.

    That’s the real value of stall training. If you truly get it, and apply yourself to be the best that you can be, you can avoid ever stalling the airplane again (one would hope) unless you become a flight instructor and get a kick out of making new applicants pee their pants or puke down their own shirt. That suggest some character flaws that might require professional help of a different kind, however.

  7. Jamie Beckett September 8, 2011 at 03:15 #

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  8. Micah September 8, 2011 at 21:13 #

    Stall recognition and recovery are basic skills and should be introduced early, trained early, and visited often. There are many other causes of crashes but I can't think of any reason that I want my flight students not trained to recognize and recover from stalls.

    As for Chuck's comments, I practice stalls with me students so they can understand the way the process feels and can recognize and predict pre-stall conditions (slow flight). An ignorant student remains an ignorant pilot but a knowledgeable student may become a pilot that can make good decisions (even how to avoid a stall by recognizing the factors leading up to it!)

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