I think this notion needs to be made into a new Sesame Street song for kids.
“A Stall Doesnt Mean You’re Dying,
As long as you have altitude, you can keep on flying!”
Imagine if Cookie Monster sang it – I smile just thinking about it.
I bring this up because in my most recent flight lesson, my instructor told me that we were going to practice slow flight and how to recover from stalls. All I could think about was “kiss your ass goodbye” but that was the FUD generated by all the years of equating stalls with engine failures. “Look, there is Billy Joe Walsh on the thirteenth lap – oh NO! His engine has stalled, he is out of the race”.
Of course, in flight, stalls mean something completely different. I knew this but I still couldn’t get over the crushing fear that when the stall warning horn came on, my ass was grass. In flight, it simply means that Bernoulli is showing you he’s still the man and the airflow is out of whack over the wing. Generally this means you are headed DOWN, which is precisely what has to happen in order to get the airflow back into calibration and for you to keep on keeping on. Still, when your instructor tells you that she might throw a “power-off stall” at you when you’re near Mt. Si, I guarantee you will freak. Case in point:
Stall Warning blaring in my ear. She tells me to keep pulling up which is precisely the thing you DON’T want to do, but she was taunting me. Pulling up, eventually the nose just falls towards the earth at which point she cheerily informs me to gun the engine, pull up the flaps and enjoy my flight. “See, that was a power off stall!” To which I replied, “yes, I know, which is why I just shit my pants.” Power off stall?! Could that SOUND more terrifying? See, it’s not really a ‘power-off stall’ which to me sounds like YOU HAVE NO POWER, but a ‘low-power stall’ which I guess is too long to say and would ruin the joy of instructors everywhere who get to use this phrase to watch students go into a terror-induced coma. Everything in aeronautics is precise – you’d think they’d get this terminology right.
Ah well. Dear reader – remember: A Stall is Not a Stall, it’s just a momentary lost of upward thrust. Unless you’re in a ‘78 Monte Carlo, in which case you are really are toast.