High Speed Stall (Accelerated Stall), what is it, how do you prevent it?

Jay Carr
  • High Speed Stall (Accelerated Stall), what is it, how do you prevent it? Jay Carr

    I've read a lot of NTSB crash reports regarding small, GA aircraft (just trying to figure out what went wrong and what to avoid.) There seem to be a lot of reports that talk about "low altitude high speed stalls" happening on approach.

    What is a high speed stall, and how is it created? What is the best way to avoid one? As they seem to cause a lot of GA accidents...

  • Short Version

    A "high speed stall" is a stall that occurs at an airspeed higher than normal due to a higher load factor (g loading).

    Longer Version

    The "high speed stall" is more commonly known to pilots as an accelerated stall. When an aircraft is in a bank or when pulling back on the yoke quickly, the wing has to create additional lift to support the aircraft since the load factor has increased. This increases the angle of attack beyond the critical angle of attack (the point where the wings can no longer produce enough lift to support the airplane) and the airplane will stall even though it is above the normal stall speed for the airplane.

    Load Factor Explained

    Example

    Let's say that we are flying an airplane that has a "normal" stall speed of 60 KIAS. If we start a 60 degree banked turn, this will increase the load factor on the airplane by two (2g) and will increase our stall speed by 41% to 85 KIAS.

    Load Factor Chart

    A fairly common cause of this type of accident is when a pilot overshoots the runway centerline during the turn from base to final and steepens the bank angle in order to "turn faster" to get back on final. Because the stall speed goes up, they can stall the airplane even though they normally never even come close at their current airspeed.

    Instead, they should have just maintained the current bank angle that they had (instead of steepening it) and continued the turn back to re-intercept final using normal maneuvers. If that couldn't be done in the amount of altitude/distance available, then simply go around and come back to try again (while making the proper wind correction in the turns this time).

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