The blow-out stall-recovery

IMMENSE internal stresses and pressures are sometimes associated with Private Pilot's Licence (PPL) training. Test candidate James and testing instructor Hetta found that to be true in more than one way during his practical flying test.

James' hectic schedule as land surveyor was exactly why he'd wanted to fly. While undergoing training meetings with clients had to double as lunch dates. Stuff like gym, jogging and golf had to take a back-seat in favour early morning briefings and flying sessions. Soon enough James seemed to gain a kilo for every hour's flying.

To make matters worse, James was built more like a hooker than a fly-half. His instructor had to prompt him ad nauseum to be both more active and effective on the Cessna 172's rudder pedals. Eventually, James was so aware of his shortcomings in that department, he'd thought it prudent to adjust his seat a little more forward that usual for the test; to be double sure…

Hetta was used to asserting herself in the traditionally 'male' world of flying. Eventually everyone knew she wasn't one to settle for 'grey areas'. James might have been on the short side, but having been born and bred on a Free State farm, he wasn't short on brains when it came to the abilities of the fairer species. Little wonder then that he might have been a tad apprehensive (in his own words) upon being instructed by Hetta to execute a recovery from an aerodynamic stall at 7000 feet in Wonderboom's general flying area that hazy morning.

He dutifully carried out HASELL checks including the look-out turn, before reducing power for the ensuing stall. But, the Cessna 172 just hung there in mid-air. She wheezed out a feeble 'whee-whee' from the stall hooter. No matter how hard he tugged on the elevator control, the darn flying machine was as headstrong as a donkey mare on heat. She just wouldn't budge. He felt his hands and forearms 'go numb, then spastic'. His knuckles went white. But, James was as relentless as a ravenous tawny eagle with a rabbit in his talons. The 172 just kept 'mushing' along a 'damped phugoid' flight path.

From the corner of his eye James could spot Hetta was changing colour… and she wasn't blushing! James' face felt bloated from all the effort; his elbows flung wide like a Nando's chicken on the run. His flying career was on the line. He then realized it was now or never… He sucked in his stomach and sat up as straight as possible. He then buried the control column neatly into the taught temporary, cavity beneath his solar plexus. For a few moments it felt his eyes would pop. He became aware an artery in his head might pop. Then, mercifully… they had airflow breakaway, the nose pitching to the gear and, at last… the sink. The 172 had stalled!

James was so relieved he simply let his breath out. His stomach bounced out like a rubber ball. The concerted blow-out forces directed onto the control column resulted in a rather pronounced, yet near-perfect stall-recovery. He afterward faintly remembered a funny smell in the cockpit, which he tried to attribute to the smoke from Rooiwal Power Station's chimneys. Yeah right… Till next time. Fly safely!

Johan Lottering - Focused Flying

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