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Why Using Ailerons In A Stall Doesn't Help

Boldmethod

Were you taught to keep your ailerons neutral and only use rudder in a stall? Have you ever tried using ailerons in a stall? There's a good reason why you shouldn't. Here's why:

The Stall You Want: From Root To Tip

There's the stall you want, and the stall you don't want. The stall you want starts at the wing root, and moves outward toward the wingtips.

Why do you want the root to stall first? By keeping your wingtips in an un-stalled condition, it prevents your plane from aggressively rolling left or right during an incipient or full stall.

So how does the wing root stall first? It's not something you do with the controls, it's a wing design feature called washout, which you can read more about here.

What Happens When You Use Ailerons

Your airplane is designed to stall root-to-tip, but what happens if you add ailerons to the mix? Unfortunately, not what you'd expect.

Check out the example below. Let's say you're in a right-banking turn, and you begin to stall. You roll the ailerons left to "help" yourself stay wings-level. But you actually make things much worse.

That's because as you deflect your ailerons, you change the angle-of-attack (AOA) on each of your wingtips. Your left wing is now flying at a lower AOA, and your right wing is flying at a higher AOA. If you add enough aileron deflection, you can push the right wing over the critical AOA, abruptly stalling the entire wing, and causing your airplane to suddenly roll to the right.

Stall Recovery

So how should you recover from a stall like this? First, lower the nose and add power to restore airflow over your wings. And if one wing starts dropping before the other, it probably means that you're uncoordinated, and you need to use more rudder to even things out (remember, "step on the ball"). Focus on keeping your ailerons neutral, and use your rudder to do the work. You'll fly yourself out of the stall wings level, while losing a minimum amount of altitude.

Power-On Stalls: Even More Wing Drop

Using ailerons in a power-on stall can cause an even more aggressive wing drop. That's because your propeller is forcing air over the wing root, delaying its stall. You can see it in the diagram below. By using ailerons in a power-on stall, you could make a wing drop even more aggressively than what would happen in a power-off stall.

Keeping Your Wings Level In A Stall

Whether you're a student pilot or you've been flying for years, the next time you're practicing stalls, keep yourself coordinated with your rudder, and keep your ailerons neutral. When you do that, you'll keep yourself wings-level through any stall.

Colin Cutler

Colin is a Boldmethod co-founder, pilot and graphic artist. He's been a flight instructor at the University of North Dakota, an airline pilot on the CRJ-200, and has directed development of numerous commercial and military training systems. You can reach him at colin@boldmethod.com.

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