Recently I provided an alternate answer to a question involving "hands off" recovery techniques. In this I briefly illustrated the benign spiral maneuver. For completeness I will reiterate what I said in that answer:
This (benign spiral) maneuver is considered to be the safest way of recovering in a glider when one has found themselves above a hole-free cloud layer or inside a cloud. My club teaches this maneuver as part of initial glider pilot training, though it is not (yet) part of the US FAA Glider Practical Test Standards.
The steps my club recommends are:
- Full spoilers
- Trim slightly aft (Other references suggest 1.5 times the stall speed)
- Hands off stick
- Feet off rudders
The effect of this maneuver is the glider will settle into a gentle spiral with a roughly constant (and not load-exceeding) airspeed and altitude loss. The maneuver is also taking advantage of the aerodynamic stability mentioned in other answers which is inherent in most (all?) modern gliders.
Here are some additional sources that discuss this maneuver:
- Scottish Gliding Centre's Airfield Procedures, Page 17 - 18
- This post, which quotes "Transition to Gliders, A Flight Training Handbook for Power Pilots" by Thomas L. Knauff.
That got me to thinking about whether this technique would be applicable to recovery from the same situation in a powered airplane. Being "stuck above" or even inside a cloud has certainly been the cause of accidents. One harrowing story that really hit home for me is told in this video from the Air safety institute.
So, my question: Would a benign spiral be one alternative to dealing with being "stuck above" or inside a cloud? Lets assume for the sake of argument that the airplane involved is a typical single-engine, forward prop GA aircraft (e.g. Cessna 172, Piper Cherokee, etc.)