How Do Pilots Overcome The Fear Of Stalls? (4 Thoughts On Stalls)

Aircraft hgh pitch attitude inducing wing stall.
Aircraft High Pitch Attitude.

It is a fact that stall/spin accidents in an airplane cause about 28% of all general aviation fatalities. It is not surprising that new pilots are afraid of stalls, so How Do Pilots Overcome The Fear Of Stalls?

How Do Pilots Overcome The Fear Of Stalls?

Fear of Stalls is overcome by doing them, Over and over until you feel the way the aircraft reacts to the stall and how to recover from the stall. Learning the stall characteristics of each aircraft flown will save your life.

1. What Is A Stall?

Stalls have nothing to do with an engine failure, a common misconception.

Stalls occur when the wing cannot create enough lift and air cannot flow evenly across the surfaces of the wing and can occur even when an aircraft’s engine(s) are developing full power.

This is why stall training and stall recovery are such a critical part of initial Flight Training.

Let’s talk about how a stall can occur. For this example, we will be using aircraft configured for the climb.  The power is set to climb power and some right rudder must be held to compensate for the torque of the propeller.

If you continue to increase the back pressure on the yolk the airspeed of the aircraft will begin to diminish until it reaches the stall speed of the aircraft. When this occurs the aircraft wings stop creating enough lift to climb. And a power-on stall is imminent.

This begins with a light buffering of the aircraft, a stall warning horn will sound and the aircraft’s left wing will drop and the nose will drop simultaneously. At this point, you have entered a power-on stall.

As it continues and enough right Rudder is applied the aircraft will enter a spin.

To recover from a stall it’s necessary to stop the rotation and decrease the angle of Attack Of The Wing by pushing forward on the yoke until the aircraft begins to gain airspeed. It really is quite simple. Spin recovery is the same and quite easy.

2. Why Are Aircraft Stalls So Scary? Overcoming The Fear.

Any time we encounter something in life that truly scares us we have the sense of losing control.  The fight or flight impulse jumps right out. And in the case of aircraft stalls that loss of control becomes an issue of both fight or flight which I think is a bit ironic.

When you lose control of an aircraft there isn’t any choice about fighting because in that situation there’s no way out. You must fight. And then you have to deal with the issue of flight because it’s the only way out too. You must fly the airplane. So now it’s fight and flight.

Aircraft stalls are scary because of the fear of the unknown. I will never forget that sensation when I was introduced to stalls. It is one of those moments I’ll never forget and I can still feel it. I am sure you can relate.

What frightened me even further was the fact that the instructor was demonstrating this stall and I was going to have to perform and recover from it for him as soon as he showed me.

But I successfully did it and then I understood both my fear and the sense of accomplishment.

Since that time I have demonstrated my proficiency in stalls many times as well as teaching them to other pilots.

I successfully learned how to overcome my fear of stalls.

3. Stall/Spin Accident Statistics. Overcoming The Fear Of Stalls.

The number of aircraft accidents and fatalities in general aviation is absolutely atrocious.  If you compare it to airline accidents it becomes ridiculous. Thankfully we have had very few Airline accidents in the recent past.

Stall/spin accidents in general aviation are the very worst, attributing to 28% of those accidents resulting in a fatality.

There’s no question in my mind after fifty years of flying experience and teaching people to fly that these numbers are a result of inadequate training and the failure on the Pilot’s part in remaining proficient.

I have found Pilots with over 1000 hours that had spent most of that time teaching as flight instructors when I was doing training and check rides for a part 135 operation that could not perform a stall in a twin-engine airplane.

That tells me that they didn’t teach stalls very well when they were doing flight instruction. Or that the importance of learning stalls very well was not instilled in them or their students.

That scares me worse than any accident statistics and that is totally related.

4. How Do You Overcome The Fear Of Stalls?

As I said earlier in this article overcoming the fear of stalls is a process of learning. Most of that learning is going to be on your own after you have been properly taught how to do stalls.

It is something you practice every time you fly as a student pilot and you will be a student pilot all of your life. So please take them seriously.


I had a flight instructor when I was doing my private license and  I had purchased a Cessna 172 from the company where he worked. Since I had purchased the aircraft he taught me about spins. He simply said if you bought this airplane you should know about spins.

He explained that it was not necessary for him to do so in my flight training because it was not required for the private pilot license but he felt it would be to my benefit and safety to teach me about spin recovery. Scared the s*** out of me but after the first one, I thought it was a great deal of fun.

He demonstrated one and then talked me through another and then I had to do one all by myself. Later on, I got some aerobatic training and spins became quite mundane!

When I got to my flight instructor rating and had to demonstrate spins for my certificate the instructor and I had about an hour and a half to play with the 150 Cessna doing spins.

And it was even better because I was at sea level so the airplane performed very well as opposed to being in the Rocky Mountains at high elevations.

Stalls and Spins are a great deal of fun and they are absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

It was one of the most fun times I’ve ever had as a student in Flight instruction.

And I passed my FAA check ride which was a real plus.

Many aircraft are prohibited from intentional spins and they will be placarded as such.

Remember this as well. It is difficult to get an airplane to spin because they are designed as such.

A properly trimmed airplane will fly quite well all by itself.

The FAA puts out a lot of really good articles about many things and here’s one that you ought to read about upset recovery. You can read about it here. It’s well worth your time.

Spend time overcoming your fear of stalls by practicing. Stay focused on situational awareness and Fly Safe. Don’t become a statistic.

Related: Why Is Flight Training Scary? (5 Calming Thoughts)

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