Hearing of a devastating aviation accident is never good. This blog aims to help pilots learn more about the number 2 killer of pilots in the aviation world, but does not intend to minimize the severity or the loss experienced by so many this past weekend.
Let's begin with, what is a stall spin? A stall spin is when the wing exceeds the critical angle of attack (when the wing produces more drag than lift) and you are uncoordinated.
How do stall spins happen (most of the time)? It's been my experience that, typically pilots are completely unaware of what's going on with the airplane. Traditionally this happens when they get focused on a specific task (such as landing) and lose situational awareness. Notably - they stop flying the airplane.
When is this is most likely to occur? Typically it's the base to final turn. WHY? Pilots are hyperfocused on making the runway (center line) they are low and slow and they are afraid to bank the airplane because they think it's going to increase stall speed. In reality, if you are making a descending turn, nose down you're stall speed remains the same.
How can you prevent this from occuring...
1. PROACTIVE - Go train with an instructor (or yourself) dealing specifically with stalls, turns, coordinated, uncoordinated, including turning stalls. If your CFI is afraid to teach you that (a lot of them are), find one that's not. Learn how to fly the falling leaf. Manuever the airplane with the wings stalled and see how the airplane behaves. Most modern airplanes are pretty boring, it's nothing to be afraid of. It's uncomfortable at first, but that is how we grow.
2. MID ACTIVE - Be aware of what you're doing base to final - notably - don't focus so much on making the runway that you lose awareness of airspeed, coordination, altitude. Worst case scenario forget about making the runway do a go around. I've flown with pilots who are so focused on making the runway that they don't even hear the stall warning horn, they have no idea of what's going on.
3. REACTIVE - YOU FUCKED UP. You are in a spin - power off, neutralize the ailerons, full rudder opposite the rotation, move yolk forward to recover from the stall, try to recover from the dive, brace for impact. If you've entered a spin less than 1000 AGL you are pretty much dead meat, unless your higher power decides otherwise. Practice this at altitude to create muscle memory.