Stall Recovery 101

Jul 16, 2012 11 Comments by

One of the hardest things to learn when you see a stall starting on a straight-ahead landing is that you should push on the elevator stick. This is difficult because all your instincts tell you to pull up! But to save the plane, you need a lower angle of attack, and you can get that only with some down-elevator. This takes a lot of practice, which is most safely obtained by practicing stalls and stall recovery high up in the air. Get to know what a stall-about-to-happen looks like and just how much elevator has to be applied to kill the stall before the stall kills the model. I have seen many fliers crash by unintentionally doing a snap roll when they turned onto final for landing. They are trying to go slowly, so they have input a lot of up-elevator, and then they use the rudder to make that last turn. But that’s exactly what you are taught to do to start a snap roll! Suddenly, and without enough altitude to recover, the plane does a snap roll into the ground. I ruined a few models that way myself before I learned the key facts about stalls:

• On a conventional plane, stalls are always caused by the overuse of the elevator and can happen at any speed.

• The use of rudder or aileron while holding up-elevator can cause one wing to stall, and the plane may start a snap roll.

• The times when you may be holding too much up-elevator without realizing that you are doing so are when landing, when making sharp turns and when pulling up at high speed. These are the times when stalls usually get pilots into trouble.


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Model Airplane News Executive editor. About me: I’m a publishing professional who has a passion for aviation and RC, and I love creating issues, books and a website that help RC pilots to enjoy this sport even more. I admire scale aircraft and enjoy the convenience of flying smaller electrics.

11 Responses to “Stall Recovery 101”

  1. FHH says:

    Note there are some special cases regarding stall/spin recovery.

    Some pusher designs or extremely overpowered you have to reduce power to get out of a spin.

    Leading edge shape, airfoil, washin/washout and wing planform affect how the plane reacts in a stall situation.
    This is why the flat bottom “hershey bar” shape wing, with washout is on most trainers. This wing design is generally forgiving of small errors.

    Test your aircraft’s stall characteristics at high altitude, giving lots of time to make the recovery, especially if it is a style of aircraft you have not flown before.

  2. PD says:

    Very nice. Thank you for the refresher!

  3. James says:

    Great post thanks — will give it some pratice runs

  4. Doublebuck says:

    If a plane is tail heavy can you help get it to the ground in one piece by actually pushing down elevator? A tail heavy plane wants to fly with the tail down and forcing the nose down seems counterintuitive but I wonder if it can be helpful-especially if the tail heavy condition is noticed just after take off?

  5. Dick says:

    I have lost my Beaver while in a sharp turn, pulling up elevator to increase the turn and then —stall and spin with no time for recovery. I thing the main sin is in putting in up elevator to “enhance” the turn while trying to maintain alttude?

  6. Tom Ryan says:

    The advise on stall recovery is a bit impractical when a plane is in porpoising mode; such as a powered glider transitioning to a glide from the climb. Our response times lag and are often out of synch, thus making the problem worse. Putting the plane in a gentle turn will often dampen out the stalls.

    This should come as no surprised because freeflight models with locked surfaces are usually trimmed to initiate a turn at the apogee. The principle applies as well to those of us using fiddle-sticks.

  7. Stan Buchholtz says:

    Read Wolfgang Langewiesche’s classic book: Stick and Rudder for an exhaustive study of the subject of angle of attack.

  8. ryo says:

    What would be of great benefit is if you could post video snippets of these events as they occur.

  9. TheDocSA1 says:

    I am not sure if Doublebuck is accurately interpreting the symptoms of a tail heavy model. My pattern plane was actually nose heavy but it hung its tail on takeoff. Once we added weight to the tail it assumed a tail up attitude and the up elevator trim that was necessary before this disappeared

  10. RC Maniac says:

    The only thing you have accomplished with this article, is to confuse every new pilot that may read it, and then try to put into practice!!

    A new pilot will not have the skills necessary to recognize when a stall is about to happen, and the natural instinct for him to “pull back hard” on the elevator will always over ride any written instructions…….such as this article!

    Instead, you should be preaching the use of the throttle, to cure every low speed approach problem! For the symptoms you’ve described……a little burp of power always saves the day!!

  11. Chris Gruhn says:

    When I stall a plane, what I do is I will use the elevator to maintain my altitude and use the throttle to give more speed. Lets say its about to stall, in the case of a trainer I will floor it use a little less elevator, I won’t push the nose down, but I will use just enough less elevator to make the wing not stall. The plane will recover and I will either land it or go around again.

    In the case of a 3D plane a small tap on the throttle is all that is needed.

    And always remember that your entire approach should be nose down, the only time your plane should be flared is when it is about to or already is in ground effect.

    Pushing down elevator for any airplane so close to the ground is a ludicrous move for any beginner. I can think of a situation where it may be necessary, but for a nooby he or she is sure to wreck their plane. When teaching people approaches I tell them to keep the nose down, and don’t turn slow, I know that loop around doing the regulation turn can be a bit of a killer sometimes. But it needs to be done fast and low, not high and slow. high and slow means you will either over shoot or you’ll lose your airspeed and have to do another pass. Low and fast means that all you have to do is bring the plane down to flare altitude and let it slow down till you want to land.

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