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Stalls (Part Two)

by Flight Learnings

in Aerodynamics

There are three flight situations in which the critical AOA can be exceeded: low speed, high speed, and turning.

The aircraft can be stalled in straight-and-level flight by flying too slowly. As the airspeed decreases, the AOA must be increased to retain the lift required for maintaining altitude. The lower the airspeed becomes, the more the AOA must be increased. Eventually, an AOA is reached which results in the wing not producing enough lift to support the aircraft which starts settling. If the airspeed is reduced further, the aircraft stalls, since the AOA has exceeded the critical angle and the airflow over the wing is disrupted.

Low speed is not necessary to produce a stall. The wing can be brought into an excessive AOA at any speed. For example, an aircraft is in a dive with an airspeed of 100 knots when the pilot pulls back sharply on the elevator control. [Figure 4-32] Gravity and centrifugal force prevent an immediate alteration of the flightpath, but the aircraft’s AOA changes abruptly from quite low to very high. Since the flightpath of the aircraft in relation to the oncoming air determines the direction of the relative wind, the AOA is suddenly increased, and the aircraft would reach the stalling angle at a speed much greater than the normal stall speed.

Figure 4-32. Forces exerted when pulling out of a dive.

Figure 4-32. Forces exerted when pulling out of a dive.

The stalling speed of an aircraft is also higher in a level turn than in straight-and-level flight. [Figure 4-33] Centrifugal force is added to the aircraft’s weight and the wing must produce sufficient additional lift to counterbalance the load imposed by the combination of centrifugal force and weight. In a turn, the necessary additional lift is acquired by applying back pressure to the elevator control. This increases the wing’s AOA, and results in increased lift. The AOA must increase as the bank angle increases to counteract the increasing load caused by centrifugal force. If at any time during a turn the AOA becomes excessive, the aircraft stalls.

Figure 4-33. Increase in stall speed and load factor.

Figure 4-33. Increase in stall speed and load factor.

At this point, the action of the aircraft during a stall should be examined. To balance the aircraft aerodynamically, the CL is normally located aft of the CG. Although this makes the aircraft inherently nose-heavy, downwash on the horizontal stabilizer counteracts this condition. At the point of stall, when the upward force of the wing’s lift and the downward tail force cease, an unbalanced condition exists. This allows the aircraft to pitch down abruptly, rotating about its CG. During this nose-down attitude, the AOA decreases and the airspeed again increases. The smooth flow of air over the wing begins again, lift returns, and the aircraft is again flying. Considerable altitude may be lost before this cycle is complete.

51UFncHi9pL._SX390_BO1,204,203,200_Learn more about airplane aerodynamics with the Illustrated Guide to Aerodynamics. This unique introductory guide, which sold more than 20,000 copies in its first edition, proves that the principles of flight can be easy to understand, even fascinating, to pilots and technicians who want to know how and why an aircraft behaves as it does.

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