Flying Training

Lesson 8: Stalling 2

Sunday 4 December 2005 at 4.00pm with Kerry Scott in Citabria VH-RRW

Weather: warm and muggy; wind from the NW. Scattered high cloud.

Actually it was probably rather later than 4pm. The boys and I visited the coffee house in Camden that we'd discovered the same day I discovered Curtis Aviation. We all had fruit smoothies - mango, strawberry or fruits of the forest - Angus and I added pies and Alexander had a rather solid cheesecake (they weren't taking any chances on it setting and must have tipped in a couple of tablespoons of gelatine). We still had an hour and a half to kill so we found a playpark on the road out of town where they played and climbed trees while I studied the briefing notes for the next lesson.

We were back at Camden by 3.30pm and I dropped them off with picnic rug, water, ball and books as before while I went to preflight RRW again. No problems this time and a nice new seal on the wing tank. I vowed to check the gauges during flight but when it came down to it we were too busy.

Kerry didn't arrive back till around 4.10pm, having experienced strong headwinds and turbulence on the way to Bathurst. I was intrigued at how it was possible to usefully balance a chart on your lap while keeping a Citabria straight and level but Kerry assured me it was.

We had a very quick pre take-off check and taxiied to runway 24 as before where I again made the ATC call (remember the ATIS code!) and had the stick for takeoff. I believe we kept closer to the runway centreline on the climbout.

Now it was time for Kerry to demonstrate all the variations on the stall that were mentioned in the briefing. She reduced the throttle to 1500rpm rather than idle and demonstrated that with power the stall was at a lower speed (close to 40 knots, the bottom of the white arc, ie the stalling speed with flap). Then she set up a descent at 60 knots and we lowered first 14° and then the full 35° of flap while Kerry showed that the stall was at a lower speed than when clean. Still with flap she demonstrated a stall in a descending turn (the inner wing dropped). Next was a climb at full power, and a stall in a climbing turn. This certainly got my attention, because with a nose-high attitude in a steep right turn, the aircraft suddenly flipped left as the upper wing stalled first. Basically the aircraft just fell out of the turn. There was that fairground ride feeling again! And for good measure she showed that the same wing drop happened during a level 30° turn.

Kerry was demonstrating in all these exercises that regardless of the plane's attitude and configuration the recovery was the same - stick forward slightly and increase power to full (where it wasn't there already). And stick forward really means release the back pressure, not jam it forward of central thus putting the aircraft into a dive.

I nearly forgot Kerry's last demo, which was an attempt to stall in a loop. She flew a tighter loop than usual and I was pressed so far into my seat I felt like a dwarf, but RRW steadfastly refused to misbehave. Apparently if you drop a wing in a stall at the top of a loop you can roll right way up, which would be a neat trick. I did notice at the end of this manouevre that we'd pulled 4G, so I must have weighed about 320 kilos. Reassuringly, the Citabria is rated to +5 and -2 G.

Now it was my turn, and I have to say it felt extremely weird putting the plane into these bizarre attitudes and feeling it do its own thing. In particular of course the climbing turn was an invigorating manouevre. It was good to do though, because I did recall Kerry on a couple of occasions telling me to "watch your speed!" during a climb. So it can happen. In practice it's easier to handle the plane flipping around the sky when you have the controls because you're simply concentrating on doing the right thing to bring it back to straight and level. Apparently later in the training the student pilot does more stall practice on his own, which would be a very different experience (no-one to tell you what to do!) [see lesson 35 and lesson 47]

The main lessons I took away from this session were:

  1. When deliberately inducing the stall, hold the altitude constant with increasing back pressure on the stick, and the nose on the reference point with rudder, not aileron. [So you don't spin!]
  2. Recovery is stick forward slightly and full power. Don't forget the power! Kerry rubbed this in when I did forget to add power by taking us on a roller- coaster ride: "Oops, we've stalled; stick forward - we've recovered - no we haven't - stick forward again..." and so on. OK, lesson learnt!
  3. When recovering from an incipient stall, aim at losing no height at all. This would obviously be critical when landing or otherwise at low speed close to the ground.

For good measure at the end, and at my request, Kerry put the aircraft into a spin (with a bootful of left rudder). So there we were heading for the ground more or less vertically. Kerry told me to watch the speed while she counted turns: "One, two, right rudder, spin's stopped, pull out of the dive" [or words to that effect - the last bit is a bit of a blur]. The book was right of course - no noticeable G force and the speed was only around 60 knots. It certainly demystified spins, yet I know that countless pilots over the years have spun into the ground.

During our lesson Camden Tower called at exactly 5 o'clock to say they were closing down for the day. Therefore the approach calls were different, being preceded by "All stations Camden" (or, less formally, "Traffic Camden") [CTAF standard from 24/11/05 is "Camden traffic"]. We overflew the airfield at 2000 feet and descended on a right circuit to runway 24 again, with Kerry making the calls on downwind and (I believe) base. I heard one pilot respond, saying he would wait till we landed. A very different atmosphere to tower-controlled flying.

Kerry had me more or less land the plane, and I believe I flared and held off rather high up so it was a little heavier than it should have been. Ahem.

The final comment on the stalling lessons is from Kerry:

"They are great lessons for confidence in an aeroplane, and I think the Citabria is the best training aircraft by far, because YOU have to fly it. You can't just sit there and expect it to behave itself!"