It’s been nine days since my last flight and I can’t even say why or how that happened, but life gets busy and so do I. The weather has also been a factor as we are in a cycle of afternoon thundershowers since summer has rolled in upon us.
Today is Lesson #4 and it’s about getting a feel for the plane when it stalls and understanding how to recover from one if you get into a stall. An airplane can stall at any speed but only one angle of attack.
We are flying at a relatively low speed and I pull back on the control to increase my pitch of the nose higher than normal. I can feel the wings and see the buffeting start with the propeller, instead of being one fluid motion it has begun to look like individual props spinning in front of the windshield. Immediately, I push the throttle all the way forward for full power to increase my speed and lower my nose so that the angle of the plane is lessened. The buffeting stops and I’m back to a fluid movement through the air, stall averted. The idea is to understand what a stall looks and feels like so that you don’t actual get into a stall but avoid it.
After the second recovery, Robert looks over at me and asks me if I’m afraid of anything. I laugh and gesture with a shrug, “What?” He shakes his head and laughs too. He proceeds to tell me that a lot of students have a very difficult time getting past stalls because of the fear it invokes in them. For me, I guess at this point, I trust that the plane is going to do what I tell it to do, and if it doesn’t respond then I’m pretty comfortable with the fact that I understand we can glide and aren’t going to just fall out of the sky like in a cartoon.
We continued most of the lesson practicing more stalls and recoveries. We also performed a simulated engine failure and went over the proper procedure for finding a place to land and sending out a distress code on the correct frequency. I’m pretty confident in my aircraft being able to land even if we have an engine failure. I hope I never have to experience it, but I’d like to think because of practice and my currently calm nature in the cockpit that I could make sound judgments and get the plane on the ground safely.
I know I’m a little new to this to offer advice but I do think if you’re having trouble with the fear of stalls, then it’s good to remember during flight training, you’re not alone in the cockpit. Don’t think your instructor is going to put you or themselves in a situation that’s going to harm either of you. They can quickly take over and remedy the situation if your stall gets out of control. Also, have a little faith in your airplane. The aerodynamic design and durable nature of them are meant to keep you in the air. The plane will respond to you by doing exactly what you tell it to do. If you push the yoke in, your nose will lower.
Instead of thinking about what could happen, tell yourself to focus on the corrective measures you’ve been taught and replay them over and over in your head when you are on the ground. This way, when you practice again, it becomes more about instinct and less about the emotion trying to reach up and grab you by the throat. Like anything, repetition builds confidence and confidence helps remove fear from the equation.