Former space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein, famous for being the man at the centre of the romantic rivalry between troubled astronaut Lisa Nowak and air force officer Colleen Shipman - which led to the astonishing nappies, mace and car-park fracas sensation of 2007 - has suffered a mishap at the controls of a small floatplane in …
A little dissapointed
Would normally expect El Reg to carry a report on Dennis Ritchie but.....I suppose being a geek God but not the centre of a fondleslab oriented cult reduces his significane?
Apologies for going off topic.
The occasional F5 cannot hurt....
I still don't understand why anyone would keep used nappies (diapers) in a car for a year. Don't they, you know, smell?
Stall? Or engine failure?
Stalling is a Bad Thing involving the complete loss of lift and control, and said aircraft tumbling out of the sky like a clothes horse. No amount of stick waggling will cure it and it's fatal. I think you mean the engine may have failed, turning the aircraft into a glider.
> No amount of stick waggling will cure it and it's fatal.
Stalling is usually recoverable unless you are very low, as was the case here.
As a test pilot Oefelein would have deliberately stalled many aircraft in order to see exactly where and how they stall.
Also TFA states explicitly that investigators found no problem with the engine.
Stalling is quite recoverable
"No amount of stick waggling will cure it and it's fatal." Bull. Stalling is quite recoverable, and in fact any pilot is required to be able to stall an aircraft and recover it. In fact, if you've been to any airshow and seen an aerobatics performance, you've likely seen somebody perform a hammerhead stall. All that is needed is to regain airspeed so the airflow over over the wings once again sticks to the upper surface of the wing - generally, all that is needed to recover from a stall is to point the nose downward for a bit (and usually add power).
You *may* be thinking of a spin, which can follow a stall, but even those are generally recoverable - in fact, a spin is one common way to lose a lot of altitude in a hurry (e.g. you are in a glider and are in the updraft of a thunderstorm, and really don't like the idea of being sucked into the cloud, and don't have dive brakes). There are aircraft that can go into an unrecoverable flat spin, but those aircraft tend to be equipped with an emergency spin recovery chute.
Thats not exactly true
Plain to see you haven't flown much. Stalls are pretty benign apart from the height loss, never involve a tumble, and are always recoverable given enough altitude to do it in. In a glider all you do is reduce back pressure on the stick and recovery is almost instant.
Spinning is a Much Worse Thing because its a stable state that requires positive action to stop the rotation. Some aircraft are placarded against spinning, but the rest are recoverable given enough height and the appropriate pilot skills.
 unless you're flying something like a BAC 111 or a Gloster Javelin, where the design allows the wing to blank out the tail entirely in a deep stall.
 All gliders will spin and so all glider pilots have spin training. In my club we do a pre-season refresher every year that involves, amongst other things, aero towing to 3000 ft or so followed by stalls and spins. Fun! However, many powered trainers are placarded against spinning and I believe that spin recovery is no longer part of PPL and NPPL training.
The above post from Max Sang on stalling may not be totally accurate and you may not gain your aeronautical engineering doctorate if you base your thesis on it...
Get a copy of Flight without Formula
Stalling is not fatal unless you're an idiot, stall recovery is one of the first things a pilot learns. To recover from a stall push the stick forwards and if you're a cautious type firewall the throttle, the aircraft will regain airspeed and the wing recover from its stalled condition. In fact many light aircraft will do most of the recovery for you all you have to do is raise the nose back up once the speed has recovered and maybe trimming the aircraft out so it doesn't happen again.
Falling in an uncontrolled manner from the sky sounds more like a spin, this is a bit more complicated but again spin avoidance and recovery is taught to all pilots at the PPL stage, basically don't apply full rudder just as you enter a stall and things should be fine.
> may not gain your aeronautical engineering doctorate...
In a very narrow sense his post is accurate. If *all* of your flying surfaces are stalled (and somehow remained stalled) then you would indeed have no control and would not be able to recover.
Realistically that means you are stopped or trying to fly in a vacuum, both of which present bigger challenges than applying the proper stall recover procedure....
In a slightly obtuse aside: Delta-winged aircraft such as the Concorde or the Shuttle are very difficult stall; that's the whole point of the delta wing!
They can get to very high AoAs without loss of lift or control. It may look like a stall to the untrained as their sink rate rises dramatically at such an attitude, however they are still easily controllable (for high-trained definitions of 'easy').
Also IRRC the 'correct' method for landing most aircraft is to be at the point of a stall at the moment the wheels contact the ground, otherwise you risk bouncing back into the air or skidding (and blowing tyres) when you apply the wheel brakes. (NOT true for carrier ops though!)
"aircraft tumbling out of the sky like a clothes horse" - ah, that would be a "Lomcovák" - rather spectacular and frightening-looking manoeuvre, but easily recoverable and not fatal (unless performed at 500' AGL!)
I think you may have been watching too much of the 'flat spin!' bit of Top Gun - to achieve complete loss of lift or control requires some horribly drastic mismanagement of the aircraft (*cough* Air France *cough*)
PS, did anyone else notice that in the final battle of 'Top Gun' Iceman was 'hundreds' of miles away and 'Maverick' got there in 30 seconds? I did not know F14s could do about Mach15...
Stalling is easily curable and not fatal in many cases!
Max Sang is talking complete nonsense.
I've stalled an aircraft deliberately on many occasions as part of PPL training!
Throttle back, keep pulling back on the controls to maintain altitude as speed drops. Ten knots above the stall, the alarm goes off, and if you keep pulling you'll enter a stall, where the airflow diverts from the top of the wings and you lose lift drastically...
Nose forward, throttle up, and away you go. No harm done.
This is only a problem if you do it at low altitude and don't have time to recover!
Now, some T-tailed aircraft had a problem with airflow over the elevator being obstructed, but the Cessna 206 is not that kind of aircraft.
the shuttle lands with a very high angle of attack, if he had mistaken the 206 for a shuttle (an easy mistake to make :-D) he'd have the nose well up and would have stalled on finals, and stuffed it into the ground way before the appointed landing place :-)
on a more serious note, if you enter a stall gently (i.e dont cut the power completely and yank the nose up hard) you sink rather than drop the nose or a wing and plummet, a reasonably good pilot (and personal life chaos aside it's more than likley he is extremely competent) could manage the stall so the passengers walk away. though losing too much airspeed on finals is a bit of a howler. The crash???
i guess we blame newton for that - ye cannae break the laws of physics!
> mistaken rge 206 for a shuttle
Family legend has it that, back in the 50s in Australia a Fleet Air Arm pilot who was experienced in carrier landings in DH Vampires accidentally applied a similar approach and landing technique to the squadron's Auster to the disadvantage of the latter's landing fear.
To add a little explanation AIUI early jet fighters like the Vampire had engines which didn't throtlle up very fast, so the carrier landing technique, simplified, was to hang out everything you could in the breeze and keep as much power as you could on, and then cut everything and hit the deck hard when you got the signal from the batsman. The Auster, on the other hand was a lightly built communications aircraft without such a solid undercarriage... The Auster did survive after repairs: indeed its still flying!
It's a bit *Tabloid* isn't it?
Guy crashes plane.
Report features history of lovelife.
Too tabloid for the Reg? There *is* a reason for the Red Top styling.
Not necessarily pilot error
Best not to speculate on these things especially if you've never actually been up the pointy end stick stirring.
Weather could have produced the same situation too..
CPL & Instructor
Weather? Doesn't have to be stall or spin..
Agreed. I practiced both of these on Microlight (weight.shift types) and they're relatively easy to recover from. Indeed, one glider I took up, when stalled would just 'porpoise' Nose drop, pick up speed, start flying again, even with the stick back. You'd lose height, but not that much.
Weather's the most likely, to catch an experienced pilot. I remember in a microlight on a long final approach, safe height (300'), safe speed(About 50kt.), Suddenly hit this hole in the air. Almost instantly I was at 50', well short of the runway. Just power up again. No bother. If there'd been trees in the way, a totally different story...
And what did the bulk of this story have to do..
And what did the bulk of this story have to do with the actual story?
Most of the copy was about the crazy woman who stalked him, not about the man who had the accident.
he's supposed to be in the UK this weekend
signing autographs. Lock up the wife!
"Dashing stick jockey"?
D'ahh ha ha ha ha... ehh heh heh... never mind. Great headline, guys.
Come to think of it, Oefelein's wild love life would've made a great episode of "The Cape", had it not been cancelled long ago.
In my defence I was a) talking about a deep stall and b) pointing out an oft-repeated confusion between aerodynamic stalling and 'stalling' when the writer means engine failure. Everyone ignored (b) and my correction and tore me a new one regarding (a). Fair enough, this is a Register comments thread.
Stalls can and do cause fatal crashes all the time - that's why pilots are trained to recognise onset and correct before it becomes a full/deep stall. Some pilots are well capable of recovery from all kinds of unusual attitudes, spins etc. but many are not and end up in a smoking crater. That's why suggesting his unscheduled landing was due to a stall is pretty misleading. Recovery = keep on flying and change your trousers, non-recovery = splat. As many of you know.
OK I'll shut up now before I'm tracked down and murdered for further inaccuracies.