BY SEAN ELLIOTT
Learning how to teach AOA awareness is a core topic for CFIs
PILOTS WHO UNDERSTAND AND correlate angle of attack (AOA) in
their flying are better equipped and safer than pilots who do not.
Loss of control continues to be one of the greatest causes of serious
injury and fatal accidents, and the classic stall/spin in the traffic
pattern still prevails as one of the biggest killers of pilots. These
types of accidents are preventable, and the flight-instructor community needs to do a better job of emphasizing the concepts of
angle of attack.
AOA is now one of the 10 core topic requirements for flight
instructor refresher clinics (FIRCs). Every two years, flight instructors who renew their certificate at a FIRC will receive an in-depth
review of AOA concepts important for the flight-training community. In the past, AOA was taught only to varying degrees. More often
than not, it was simply skimmed over with little or no emphasis.
So what is angle of attack? The textbook definition of AOA—
called Alpha by test pilots—is the angle between the chord line of
the wing and the relative motion of the aircraft through the
atmosphere. A much simpler definition of
AOA is the angle between where the wing
(chord line) is pointing and where the wing
is going. This is important to grasp because
it reminds us that a wing will, in fact, stall
at any airspeed if AOA exceeds the critical
point or coefficient of lift, CLMAX. In fact,
the only way to stall a wing is to cause AOA
to exceed CLMAX.