Monday, 12 May 2014

The one where WMAP scares herself silly.

I did something scary during today’s flight.

Scary as in “potentially unsafe”. Scary as in “Oooh, let’s try to never, ever do that again”

It was all going so well. A beautiful day, fine flying weather. Once I’d got over my initial nerves and was airborne. I was calm, relaxed and in control of that plane. Despite the ATC craziness going on around me (another post!), I was fine, I was even enjoying myself. I had the plane trimmed out and was virtually flying hands off.

I was a little wary of the traffic around me, the good weather bringing out a lot of pilots, all of them converging on the same area, and for some reason no one seemed that keen on talking to me, despite my trying to negotiate for space.

I did my HASEL check, and then set up for a steep turn to the left. It was OK, a bit scrappy on the bank angle maybe but I maintained good altitude management and didn’t let the nose drop.
The one to the right went better; I was pleased that there wasn’t even a hint of a nose drop. I’ve got that sorted now, no spiral dives for me.

Reasonably happy with how it had gone, I wanted to set up for some slow flight. I needed to turn around 180 degrees so that I stayed South of Claremont. I figured I may as well do another steep turn to take me round.

Now I’m not entirely sure how I ended up in this situation. I have theories. I’ll need to review the footage but basically I entered the turn with too low an airspeed. As I turned, it bled off even more.

I heard the stall horn.

My blood ran cold.

Because of the load factor, you aren’t generating as much lift in a steep turn as you would in straight and level flight.

I’m in a BAAAAAAD situation.

Reflexes kick in as the nose comes down and the power goes in.


STUPID, STUPID, STUPID.  I curse myself.

I get the plane flying again at a sensible airspeed and ensure the wings are level.

That was too close, too stupid. I swallow down some air, trying to breathe through this.

The plane is still jostling in the sky. I start to panic. I glance down at the gauges. I’m at over 100 knots, wings level, altitude a steady 3500 feet.

Nothing wrong. It’s just thermal heating bouncing me a little, not the buffeting of an impending stall that I fear.

I will totally admit to being shaken up by this. I fly in a lazy circle, reorienting myself in space and rebooting mentally.

Conscious of the time (more again in another post), I eschew the stalls I’d wanted to practice in favour of more steep turns. The last thing I want is to have a mental issue with that particular maneuver.

I’m a little angry at myself for getting into that situation in the first place but the fact that I managed to get out of it with both the plane and my wits intact, is something I guess.


  1. You and Bob need to go pull some stalls in steep turns - 45 and 60 degrees of bank. Particualrly prosaic unexciting manoeuvres.

    While you're at it, go try some stalls in a side slip and slipping turns. (Ball off-centre...? Whaa...?) No, you don't spin and die.

    1. I don't like stalls, I've never made any secret of this but the problem here wasn't that I couldn't recover from the situation. I was scared because I'd been stupid enough to let myself get into it in the first place.
      I know better than that.