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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Stalling the Airbus

The good news is the A330 cannot stall in Normal Law. 

Laws are just protections so the pilots can't screw up. Normal Law is the mother of all laws, as she will babysit any pilot. But when the protections aren't there, we need to know how to fly our planes. As been proven... the A330 will stall at altitude if you pull the stick back. If held in a deep stall, it may become unrecoverable.

My advice. Don't pull the stick full aft at altitude. Don't pull the stick full back in "anything" other than normal law, with all the protections working.

How do you recover when it stalls in Alternate law?

Identify the stall:
Buffeting, lack of roll control, lack of pitch authority, and maybe the inability to arrest the descent rate.

The last note "inability to arrest the descent rate" is a confusion to some. Why couldn't you arrest the descent rate? Because when you pull the stick back the A330 will help you with automatic nose-up trim, giving you what you want. This, combined with high power settings, may make it difficult to pitch the nose down.


You might have to pull the power to idle, and use excessive force to push the nose over. A bank may help too. Once your wings are flying again (no longer stalling) level them, and smoothly bring the nose to the horizon and add power.

The best thing you can do in the Airbus is fly it. Don't be afraid of the laws or buy into the concept that this is not a plane. It is a plane. You just need to understand it.

Like a woman, she is a complex creature with many buttons. (Don't push the wrong ones.) It may take you years to understand her, if ever. But it is worth the effort. Understanding is the first step to success. Study. Study. Study.

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene


  1. Interesting little column..
    What is going on in the flightdeck as far as warnings, indicators, and auto-throttle response?

    How effective is the rudder at slow speeds?

    "Fly the Wing"
    Tim TDY MT

    1. In both Alternate and Direct Laws, we get an continuous voice "STALL. STALL."

      The rudder... the warnings from Airbus are to use only a "small" amount of rudder, as that is all that is needed. Because we could lose directional control. It appears it will be very effective. But can't find data other than this statement to support that, as making an assumption.

      Now... I had a chance to play in the simulator with high altitude stalls. You'll have to read the sequel to hear the details...

      but, on the event we placed thrust to TOGA and pushed the nose over, the plane rolled on her back. Uncontrollable. When it was my turn, same result. But, I cut the power to idle and slammed in the rudder to upright her. Worked.

      The problem is that after talking to Airbus they said, "be careful to make assumptions in a simulator operating outside the envelope that has not been tested." So true.

      Now... when the speed gets below 60 knots, the airspeed indicator disappears thinking it's not flying. Not sure if the aural warning goes away too. I'm investigating that now. I have people. :)

      Thanks for the great question.

  2. I read that the aural warnings do go away. the cockpit voice recorder from that AF flight showed that each time the crew pushed the nose down, the a/s increased to the point that the aural warning started up again, saying "stall. Stall". Confusing to crew, untrained in high altitude stalls.

    1. Thanks D.B.! I was fairly certain they did. If she didn't think she was flying, then she couldn't be stalling too.

      While everyone is wondering "why" the FO pulled back on the stick, I think I know. And this will be going into Flight For Safety.

      Thanks for your input!

  3. Have stalled and taught stalls in the 330 many times at high altitude , & never had her flip on her back. But yeah that is definitely out of the simulator envelope - just a guess at that point

    1. Ahhh... reminder we did this with another checkairman. We were just trying some things out... non-training. You at the panel. Another check-airman in the left seat. Max Rec Alt. When we pulled her back and added TOGA she she stalled, one wing dropped and she rolled over. But only with the application of TOGA ... and we were definitely outside the envelope. Which, airbus said... "Be careful with those assumptions."

  4. Your blog sure does inspire me to become an Airline Pilot! I love the comparison of the Airbus to a woman. She's very capable and will fly absolutely fantastic, but you shouldn't neglect her, or she'll throw you overboard (not literally haha).

    On another note, do you believe that the media, the accident investigators and their final reports are always trying to cover up certain facts that could compromise the aviation industry? For example with AF447, it's always easy to blame pilot error or maintenance error. Isn't this unethical?

    Kind regards from Hong Kong!

  5. Terry Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it. And just like a woman, she is a complex yet smart plane. :)

    About the cover-ups. I don't believe they are trying to cover up anything. Nobody wants to hold responsibility when an accident happens because honestly... it costs big dollars. So they fight it out in court.

    The media just knows what they can deduce. And being they are not pilots or understand what they hear that message gets skewed. I'm working with another pilot who is writing a book on AF447.

    He has created the most comprehensive book about the truth involving that accident. I think pilot consultants would be an asset in cases like this. The problem is... company retaliation if the pilots speak out.

    Much more to come on that. But the reality is... companies and FAA try to avoid responsibility due to liability, and the media are most often ignorant with aviation technology and human factors.

    Thanks again for your very nice comment!


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