We’ve all heard many times that aircraft can stall in any attitude and at any speed. What’s seldom mentioned, however, you can recover from a stall in any attitude too — given enough airspeed. If this seems immaterial, or even dubious, read on.
I was up once with a video camera on the instrument panel pointed forward, looking for action. Suddenly here came another glider crossing paths some hundreds of feet below, near enough for an interesting shot if I could reposition in time. I swung away in a sharp spilt-S, intentionally falling behind and below the bogey, then zoomed up on its six with energy to burn.
Though fully capable of this maneuver, I had never practiced with a ‘live’ target. Turned out I dove a bit too far and gathered more speed than necessary, so had to pull up hard to not pass under it. And that’s a textbook prescription for an accelerated stall.
Every pilot knows what ordinary stalls feel like, and we don’t normally associate them with high speeds and heavy Gs, but the camera doesn’t lie. Video shows my bogey coming into view from above, appearing to shudder as it falls off the bottom of the screen during the stall like the old combat footage, then smoothly back to center screen after recovery.
Keep in mind, the other aircraft was operating smoothly, straight and level the whole time; it’s my ship that shuddered. When the stall began I was pitched up 35 degrees or more at about a hundred knots, and remained well above level (still climbing) afterward. The stall scrubbed just the right amount of excess energy, enabling a momentary pause to paint that rapidly growing target with imaginary tracers before lofting above it again. Kaboom.
Now think what might have happened if I had not recognized the stall and recovered from it. Impossible to know with any precision, but my glider would have continued upward toward the victim several seconds longer, slowing but effectively out of control, and…
The ugly truth is, that other pilot was entirely oblivious of peril in which further misjudgment on my part, or a botched recovery, could have risked deadly collision… And there’s no stenciling a kill on your nose cone if it is what makes the kill.
This is exactly why FAR 91.111 requires PRIOR ARRANGEMENT before flying near any other aircraft!! Say what you will, some rules make pretty good sense.