If you haven’t read David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers, I highly recommend it. I enjoyed it for many reasons, but the most relevant one for this issue’s focus on avoiding Loss of Control (LOC) is the discussion of how Wilbur and Orville learned the basics of aircraft control. As McCullough explains:
Equilibrium was the all-important factor. (…) The chief need was skill rather than machinery. It was impossible to fly without both knowledge and skill, – of this Wilbur was already certain – and skill came only from experience – experience in the air.
In many ways, the history of aviation is very much the story of aircraft control. As you may know, spins – the ultimate loss of control – were initially considered “unpredictable” in terms of occurrence, though painfully predictable in terms of their fatal outcome. The first (accidental) spin recovery took place in 1912, but it was another two years before Henry Hawker successfully recovered from an intentional spin over England. It took three more years for experiments by English physicist Frederick Lindemann to produce an understanding of spin aerodynamics.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that we modern pilots are still struggling to master the art and science of aircraft control. However, thanks to the bravery of pioneers like Lindemann and those who have built on his work, today’s pilots – both novices and experienced aviators – have a wealth of resources to help us develop the knowledge and skill to keep our magnificent machines under control. I hope you have already found and absorbed some of the many excellent books and videos that industry experts have developed. You can also benefit from these FAA resources:
Stall and Spin Awareness Training (AC 61-67C) http://go.usa.gov/cU57k
This advisory circular (AC) explains the stall and spin awareness training required under 14 CFR part 61 and offers guidance to flight instructors who provide that training. In addition, it informs pilots of the airworthiness standards for the type certification of normal, utility, and acrobatic category airplanes prescribed in 14 CFR part 23, section 23.221, concerning spin maneuvers.
Stall Prevention and Recovery Training (AC 120-109A) http://go.usa.gov/cU5AC
Revised in November 2015, this AC provides guidance for training, testing, and checking pilots to ensure correct responses to impending and full stalls. Although this AC guidance was created for operators of transport category airplanes, many of the principles apply to all airplanes. Core principles include reducing angle of attack (AoA) as the most important pilot action in recovering from an impending or full stall.
Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (AC 120-111) http://go.usa.gov/cU5AR
Issued in April 2015, the goal of this AC is to describe the recommended training for airplane Upset Prevention and Recovery Training (UPRT). AC 120-111 emphasizes comprehensive pilot academic training on aerodynamics, early recognition of divergence from intended flightpath, and upset prevention through improvements in manual handling skills.
Transition to Unfamiliar Aircraft (AC 90-109A) http://go.usa.gov/cU5sT
Updated in June 2015, this AC is primarily intended to help plan the transition to any unfamiliar fixed-wing airplanes, including type-certificated and/or experimental airplanes. It is relevant to the topic of maintaining control because it includes recommendations for training in experimental airplanes in groupings based on performance and handling characteristics.
Angle of Attack (AoA) Awareness Video (www.faa.gov/tv/?mediaId=1172)
This awareness video presents an analysis of AoA devices in the GA environment. It promotes FAA policy concerning non-required/supplemental AoA based systems for GA airplanes. More on the installation, training, and use of AoA systems can be found in InFO 14010 (http://go.usa.gov/cU5vC)
Coming Soon – Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3) Revision
Working with a number of industry experts, the FAA is making substantial revisions to the Airplane Flying Handbook’s treatment of this topic. Expected in June 2016, FAA-H-8083-3B will include a chapter called “Maintaining Aircraft Control.” (FAA Safety Briefing – MarApr 2016)