CNN reported that the cause the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501 is:

... it stalled and fell out of the sky ...

The reality is that when an airplane stalls it does not fall out of the sky. Why did CNN report such a statement?

The aircraft was at 36,000 feet when it stalled. According to the flight recorder, it was descending at 6000 feet per minute. Stalling an airplane at 36,000 feet means there is plenty of time to recover from any stall, unless the airplane was loaded tail heavy. But that was not reported.

Am I missing something here?

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    $\begingroup$ A stalled aircraft is literally falling out of the sky, so that is correct. Whether it's recoverable or not depends on very many factors. In the case of AF447 one of those factors is realizing you're in a stall. $\endgroup$ – falstro Feb 4 '15 at 16:43
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    $\begingroup$ It is possible to be stalled such that you cannot get enough airflow over the elevators (or whatever other control surface is responsible for pitch) to recover from the stall. Read about "deep stalls" $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 4 '15 at 17:35
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    $\begingroup$ Regarding the title, no, they did not correctly report that is stalled, because that information is not confirmed yet. It was said by Indonesian Minister of Transport, so it might be the best founded speculation we have so far, but until NTSC confirms it, it is still a speculation. You can watch AvHerald coverage of the accident for any new reliable information. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Feb 4 '15 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ Of course it follows that when we don't yet even know for sure whether the aircraft stalled, we can't really have a clue about why it did and why the pilots didn't recover it. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Feb 4 '15 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ Whatever is said regarding 8501 is speculation since only a factual preliminary report has been released. Therefore, this question is speculative, since we do not know that 8501 was stalled, nor that it "fell out of the sky" and I am voting to close as such. $\endgroup$ – Simon Feb 4 '15 at 22:23

An aerodynamic stall is exactly that: the wing is stalled and is not generating enough lift to keep the aircraft in the sky. The aircraft is falling out of the sky. Whether the stall can be recovered from, and therefore the aircraft can stop falling out of the sky, is an entirely different question.

Some stalls can be recovered from, others cannot... particularly if whatever caused the stall is preventing recovery.

An aerodynamic surface which is stalled is no longer generating significant lift. Most specifically it's not generating enough lift to support the aircraft

An object which is not generating sufficient lift to keep it airborne, and is being pulled towards the earth by gravity, is falling

So yes, CNN is correct - the plane fell out of the sky while stalled. Generally a plane which is at 36,000 ft and is not falling out of the sky, doesn't hit the ground.

As Falstro mentioned in his comment, AF447 didn't realise it was in a stall at all, so therefore couldn't remove it. We don't really have enough information about the AirAsia flight to be sure what happened

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    $\begingroup$ Stalled wing is definitely still generating lift. It is not generating as much of it, but it is generating some. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Feb 4 '15 at 19:17
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    $\begingroup$ You're splitting hairs, the point is that it's not generating anywhere close to enough to prevent the aircraft falling out of the sky. Whether it's in a complete free fall or whether the fall is in any way arrested, is academic $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Feb 4 '15 at 19:18
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    $\begingroup$ in other words, it's not flying and it's not gliding $\endgroup$ – Michael Martinez Feb 5 '15 at 0:13
  • $\begingroup$ @JanHudec: Yes, you can fly in conditions where the wings are in a stall but is still generating enough lift to keep the aircraft aloft (we see this sometimes in aerobatic flying). But a stalled "aircraft" is defined as an aircraft where the wings are stalled to the point of not generating enough lift to counter the force of gravity. That's why when planes crash we say the aircraft stalled rather than just the wings. $\endgroup$ – slebetman Feb 5 '15 at 1:48
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    $\begingroup$ Again splitting hairs in the context of this question. It wasn't an aerobatic aircraft and considering it dropped a wing and crashed into a river, it didn't appear to be marginal.... $\endgroup$ – Jon Story Feb 5 '15 at 9:12

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