Flight Maneuvers

Basic flight maneuvers. Mostly notes from Chapter 4 of the Airplane Flying Handbook.

Standard disclaimer for my other flying notes: I’m not a CFI. Hell, as of this writing, I’m not even a private pilot. Don’t take this as flight instruction.


Stalls occur when the angle of the airflow relative to the cord of the wing exceeds a certain “critical angle”. When this critical angle is reached, the lift generated by the wing drops to near-zero1.

Relatedly, stall horns are devices that detect how turbulent the airflow on a wing is, and warn the pilot if it’s too turbulent - and thus is in or approaching a stall.

Power On Stall

A power on stall (also called a departure stall) is the kind of stall you might encounter immediately after takeoff or a go around. For this, you’d be in a takeoff configuration. (flaps as specified, gear down, etc.) Though, the Airplane Flying Handbook also recommends practicing power on stalls in a clean configuration (flaps and gear retracted). Set power to maximum (hence the name).

Enter a climb from a lift-off speed. Here is where you’d apply the desired power setting. Raise the nose during the climb, enough to start reduction of airspeed. Maintain straight flight during this (it’s really easy to enter a turning stall when trying to enter a power on stall). Eventually, you should enter a stall.

At this point, you’re going to:

  1. Pitch down. This’ll increase your angle of attack.
  2. Keep the wings level with ailerons & rudder.
  3. Apply full power (it might not have been full anyway).

Once the stall is exited, return to the desired flightpath (climb or straight and level), and return to the appropriate power setting.

Power Off Stall

A power off stall is the type of stall you might encounter during a landing. For this reason, you start in a landing configuration (flaps on, gear down, carb heat applied, throttle to near-idle).

Using just the stick/yoke, you keep the plane level - essentially, you’re pulling up to drop airspeed. As you do this, the plane will slow down. It’s important to keep the plane flying straight (otherwise you get a turning stall). Eventually, you’ll be going too slow and enter a stall.

At this point, you’re going to do a three things in quick succession. All of which with the goal to increase the angle of attack.

  1. Nose down
  2. level wings
  3. Apply full power (power as needed). This might require some right rudder to counteract some left-turning tendencies.
  4. Once the flying speed is back up, level out and climb back to starting altitude. Keep in mind that you don’t want to have dropped too much, because this could have actually been a landing, and dropping into the terrain sounds like not a good time.
  5. In the climb, go back to a flying configuration - gear up, raise flaps, trim as needed.

Ground Reference Maneuvers

Ground Reference Maneuvers are necessary for all sorts of flying.

For these, you should enter at maneuvering speed, and never go above a 45° bank angle. Ground Reference Maneuvers should be established from the downwind position, and you should always check/clear the area with two 90° clearing turns prior to performing a GRM.

For the most part, these are all the same thing - keep multiple reference points in sight, make small corrections for the wind, etc.

Some things to keep in mind:

  • Bank into the wind. That is, when in a crosswind that is blowing away from the point, you want a higher bank angle (because you need to compensate for the wind blowing you away from the point). Similarly, when the crosswind is blowing into the point you’re orbiting, bank less now that the wind is helping you in your turn.
  • Similar idea as above, have a slightly higher bank angle in the downwind - the wind is blowing you tangent to the turn, so you’re going to be in this portion of the turn less than in the upwind part of the turn. You will have the steepest bank angle when you have a direct tailwind.
  • In a low wing aircraft, the wing might conceal the object you’re supposed to be orbiting. This is fine, you should have other points you’re referencing anyway.

In a stall, the wing is still generating lift - this is why the plane doesn’t fall at 9.8 m/s^2 when in a stall - it’s just not enough to keep the plane from falling period.

Last updated: 2021-05-29 23:05:39 -0700