Slow Flight and Stalls

The objective of this lesson is to save your life. We often want to fly slowly to save height. Too slow though and we can fall out of the sky. It is essential that you recognise the symptoms of a potential stall, and instinctively react to recover from one. This lesson focuses on “1G” or “unaccelerated” stalls, at the slowest speeds of flight. “Accelerated” stalls will be described later.

A mushing stall, or the start of something else?

Learning Points

Slow flight is inevitable. Minimum sink is typically only just above the stall speed, so we must be on our guard. It can also catch us out descending through a wind gradient, often close to the ground as we approach to land. A stall here needs to be avoided, or else recognised and dealt with immediately. The symptoms of an impending stall are well known and easily recognised. You’ll always see one or more these conditions before a stall:

Symptoms of the Stall

Note, you may not see all of these symptoms, as they may not all be present or obvious in any given stall. Treat any single symptom as a pre-stall warning.

  • The nose is high
  • Airspeed is low, or reducing
  • The sound of the airflow will become much quieter
  • The ASI reading may be oscillating
  • Buffeting of the airframe can be felt, heard and possibly seen
  • Elevator, aileron and rudder control may become sloppy (or worse, and precipitate a wing drop)
  • The controls may be in unusual positions for the phase of flight, such as lots of out of turn aileron
  • The elevator will not raise the nose. If this is the case, you’re already stalled. If you haven’t fallen out of the sky, you’re about to do so
  • Sink is increasing and may be higher than expected for the current attitude.

Types of Stall

Mushing Stall

The glider is dropping, wings horizontal, and nose high. An example is shown in the image above.

Stall with Nose Drop

The glider is dropping, wings horizontal, with the nose down. There is an example of this in the lesson ‘Effect of Controls – Elevator’.

Wing Drop Stall

Possibly the most exciting variant: One wing drops first, resulting in the start of a spiral dive.

Stall with a wing drop: the starboard wing is dropping

Recovering from a Stall

You’ve probably understood that the stall is associated with flying too slowly. The real underlying cause, common to all stalls, is that the angle of attack is too steep, typically around 15 degrees. The solution is obvious: lower the angle of attack. How? 

The response is always:

Move the Stick centrally forward to get the nose down.

As speed increases, as it will quite quickly, make coordinated use of aileron and rudder to level the wings and ease back on the stick to recover some height.

As your speed decays in the climb, ease the stick forward again to adopt the required attitude for a safe speed – with the nose slightly lower than normal to avoid a second stall.

Scenario and Demonstration

This demonstration shows the glider flying at best L/D, then slowing to Min Sink. We then slow some more, and with the nose high we try the elevator to see if it picks the nose up any further. It doesn’t, and the result is a stall with wing drop. A simple recovery, followed by a second example showing the stick more clearly. This is recovered and a third example is seen from the outside with a smoke trail, to visualise the mush stall before the wing then drops.

Stalls in slow flight

Alternative Video without animation

Video as it is seen in Condor Flight School
About the videos

Multiple versions of the videos are being made available:

  • With animation and voiceover.
  • Alternative without the animation graphics.
  • As recorded in Condor Flight School. These will have messages at the top of the screen, with no additional animation or voiceover – that’s the way the Condor cookie crumbles!

The videos are suited to any device that supports YouTube. If you have trouble loading the video in the browser, click on Watch on YouTube in the lower left corner.

Performing the Exercise

Get a feel for flying slowly, at say 40kts. Then ease the stick back to settle at 38 knots. Note any changes in sink, the vario sound, the sound of the air, and feel for stability. Try holding it for a while. Look out for pre-stall buffet. Hold it there if you can, before easing back a little more. Can you fly any more slowly? With practice, you can hold the nose high while sinking. A wing drop will come more easily… Recover as above. Aim to do so with the minimum of height loss. Practise lots.

The sim is a great place to practise stalls and recovery.

Further Reading and References


The lessons were developed for Condor2. They will be updated from time to time. Visit the Downloads page for news of updates, and to request the latest version.

Comments and Feedback

Your comments and feedback would be welcome. Visit the Contact page to send your thoughts.


Join us on the Forums provided by Condor Soaring and (the URAS forum).