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An unusual attitude is commonly referenced as an unintended or unexpected attitude in instrument flight. The top four causal and contributing factors for unusual attitudes are:

  1. Environmental factors
  2. Mechanical factors
  3. Human factors
  4. Stall-related factors

It’s important for pilots to recognize the conditions or situations that could cause an unusual attitude, with focus on how to recognize one, and how to recover from one. Test your knowledge of unusual attitude recognition and recovery with this interactive exercise.

This is one of 14 new interactive exercises included in Sporty’s 2024 Instrument Rating Course, which includes over 15 hours of HD and 4K video training.

Sporty's 2024 Instrument Rating Course
Air Facts Staff
10 replies
  1. Michael Tomlinson
    Michael Tomlinson says:

    Your climbing attitude recovery answers are WRONG! When approaching a Stall, unload the wings FIRST. An unloaded wing doesn’t stall since it has not exceeded its critical angel of attack. The correct order is always “first don’t die”.

    • Steven Von Wald
      Steven Von Wald says:

      Incorrect Michael, see the Airplane Flying Handbook. A power adjustment ALWAYS comes first. “If you see blue, power through. If you see brown, power down.” In a nose high attitude, reducing the AOA is the 2nd step.

  2. Kreig
    Kreig says:

    I agree with Michael Tomlinson. Check out pages 5-6 and 5-15 in the Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3C). In my upset recovery training, the sequence taught was Look, Unload, Level, and Recover. Power is a part of recovering. If you apply full power while in a stall, what is going to happen? The torque will put you into a spin. That’s why you unload first.

  3. Gary Ernest Garavaglia
    Gary Ernest Garavaglia says:

    The AFH stall recovery template figure (5-10) on page 5-15 is very clear that power is NOT the first step in a stall recovery sequence, nor an unusual attitude. Power in most AC causes a further pitch UP attitude which can push the aircraft further towards the critial AOA. Gliders don’t have power and yet they recover quite nicely to the same condtitions as airplanes.

    Normally, the info you present is spot on…but not this case. The info you have conveyed is NOT correct. We have got to get this right, print it rightly and teach it consistently. These small errors in communication contribute greatly to the fact that LOC inflight is still our enemy number one.

    • geekmug
      geekmug says:

      Sporty’s answers originate with the Instrument Flying Handbook (Page 7-27 and 7-28), which gives thrust, roll, pitch as the correct sequence. I think they are attempting to draw a very subtle distinction between “unusual attitudes” and an “upset” or “stall” such that you can safely use thrust to minimize altitude loss. Personally, I think it’s a bit ridiculous, but I can tell you from experience that you can get a notice of disapproval for doing “push, roll, thrust” in a checkride.

  4. David Thompson
    David Thompson says:

    I’m inclined to agree with the comments about recovering from a nose high bank “unusual attitude” using PUSH (unload the wing), ROLL (wings level), POWER (to improve airflow over the wing root and begin to accelerate). I have had this discussion before with several flight instructors who are following published FAA guidance and also the guidance contained in both the King and Sporty’s Instrument Rating coursework guidance. My guess is that the ‘correct’ guidance regarding PUSH vs POWER first really comes down to how close to a stall the aircraft actually is. It could be instructive to see the data from flight testing in this critical flight regime.

    If I saw this situation developing, I would PUSH and add POWER simultaneously, then ROLL, then STABILIZE. If I missed the early indications and was on the brink of a stall I would Push, Roll, Power and Stabilize – Per Rich Stoll’s upset recovery advice. My instincts tell me that adding massive power when on the brink of the stall, would, as Kreig above points out, simply add to the pitch up moment while also adding add a torque moment potentially inducing a spin. Proper pilot technique should be able to counter those moments, but in a really critical situation could require a great deal of finesse on the controls. I remain to be convinced that the increased airflow over the wing root area from adding power comes fast enough or is sufficient powerful to prevent an incipient stall. Again test flight data would be helpful to confirm or refute that conviction. It is even possible that in the most critical situations of delayed recognition of the condition, that the proper recovery technique is aircraft dependent. All of this, of course is limited to tractor configured, single engine, propeller aircraft. Twins and jets are beyond my experience and training qualifications.

  5. Thomas Schwarzkopf
    Thomas Schwarzkopf says:

    I’m not going to speak for individual airplane manufacturers or company policy. However, where I work as a pilot, our procedure for upsets is Push-Roll-Thrust-Stabilize.


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