FAA Clarifies "Minimal Loss of Altitude” Practical Test Standards (PTS)


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FAA Clarifies "Minimal Loss of Altitude” Practical Test Standards (PTS)

By Shane Nolan

July 8, 2010 - The FAA has issued a Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) to clarify the meaning of approaches to stall evaluation criteria as it relates to “minimal loss of altitude” in the Airline Transport Pilot PTS.

A recent survey of stall/stick pusher training programs revealed some inconsistencies in the practical application of the term “minimal loss of altitude”. Specifically, some programs inappropriately stress maintaining altitude during recovery or have arbitrarily assigned a predetermined value (in feet) as an evaluation criteria.

The term “minimal loss of altitude” was intended to take into account the many variables which could affect the amount of altitude loss encountered in a smooth recovery from an approach to stall.


These variables may include, but are not limited to entry altitude, bank angle, aircraft weight, aircraft configuration, and density altitude. The FAA has indicated that the reduction of angle of attack required to initiate recovery will likely result in altitude loss. The amount of altitude loss will be affected by the operational environment.

The FAA encourages operators and training centers ensure that their training programs and checking modules are written and administered to ensure the evaluation criteria for a recovery from a stall or approach to stall does not mandate a predetermined value for altitude loss.

Proper evaluation criteria should consider the multitude of external and internal variables which affect the recovery altitude. The aircraft manufacturer’s recommended stall recovery techniques and procedures take precedence and must be followed.

The FAA further recommends Directors of Operations, Directors of Training, Training Center Managers, Check Pilots, Training Pilots, and flight crews should be familiar with the content of SAFO 10012. They should work together to ensure that the content of this SAFO is provided to pilots during ground training, reinforced in flight training, and proficiency checks.

A SAFO contains important safety information and may include recommended action. SAFO content should be especially valuable to air carriers in meeting their statutory duty to provide service with the highest possible degree of safety in the public interest.
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