Here's What Happens When A Plane Stalls & Why Pilots Practice Them

Sure, all you aspiring Jalops have jumped behind the wheel, thrown the shifter into first, and with much anticipation dropped the clutch only to be met by a violent shudder and a stalled engine.

Good thing you're only in the parking lot because you'd be mortified to be stalled out in the middle of a busy intersection at the peak of rush hour with that girl you're trying to impress staring at you with her mouth agape... I digress.

First things first. When an airplane stalls, the engine doesn't quit. "What?" you say, "but I saw this video on Youtube, and the prop was stopped". What you saw my friend, most likely was not what is commonly referred to as a stall in aviation speak. You either witnessed some strange apparition brought on by the camera's frame rate and shutter speed distorting the prop, or an actual engine failure which probably resulted in an emergency. These are both topics for another post.

An aerodynamic stall is a much different matter. A stall can best be described as the situation where there is not enough air flowing over the wings to generate the amount of lift needed to counteract gravity. At which point you fall out of the sky. Falling out of the sky shortly after takeoff or shortly before landing can have some obvious disastrous results. Hence the need for pilots to practice a stall at high altitudes in order to learn the feedback an aircraft provides in order to prevent such conditions in critical phases of flight.

Great News!

Here's What Happens When A Plane Stalls & Why Pilots Practice Them

Almost all personal aircraft are designed to be inherently stable. This means that although the super intelligent being (read pilot) behind the controls might put the dumb machine into a situation for it was not intended, if the super intelligent being were to let go of the controls, the dumb machine would regain stable flight without any external input. The caveat here is that this might take several hundred feet of altitude and can be more quickly corrected by swift and decisive action by the pilot. Aerodynamic stalls can happen with the engine operating at max power or at idle and are generally practiced in both power settings.... exclusions apply. See store for details.

So take heart my engine loving friends, for it is in thrust we trust and he who would stop the giant fan that keeps the pilot cool will surely get the sweats. No engines will be shutdown in the making of this maneuver. To come back to the clutch analogy, learning to recognize a stall is similar to getting that clutch to feather just right to accomplish a smooth start. Every plane is a little different and they all provide a unique "feel". So in the goal of promoting safety for all onboard, a pilot's first order of duty upon handling a new aircraft is to practice stalls so that landings and takeoff will be uneventful.

ShiftsAndGiggles is a pilot who loves airplanes and cars. He runs the Planelopnik blog and his writing has been seen on Jalopnik. Contact him with questions or comments via twitter or email.