Year after year, the National Transportation Safety Board and FAA nag pilots about accidents caused by “loss of control – in flight,” which usually means a stall. The topic is well covered in training too. Dozens of questions on the subject appear on the knowledge test, and stalls are performed on the practical test and are part of any decent flight review. And yet while accidents caused by weather and controlled flight into terrain are declining, stalls remain one of the leading causes of fatal accidents in general aviation. Clearly, something is not working.
The AOPA Air Safety Institute tried to remove the emotion from this subject last year by diving more deeply into the data about stall accidents. The result is a well-researched study that reaches some sensible conclusions. Most important, it is a reminder that there are no miracle cures for aviation safety.
The study should serve as a polite but firm rebuttal to two common arguments in aviation: that safety problems can be solved by adding new avionics or by going back to “the way it used to be.” Technology optimists, including the FAA, have suggested that angle-of-attack indicators are the solution, and some regulations have been adjusted to make them easier to install. On the other hand, the stick-and-rudder crowd loudly proclaims that a return to spin training (which hasn’t been required for private pilots in more than 60 years) would help.