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You can be moving backwards relative to the ground and still be overspeed.

That's not true. The wind even at altitude won't be more than ~100knots. It's true you can't land using GPS speed, but if your GPS tells you 90 knots ground speed at 37000ft, you know something's not right regardless of wind.

The margin between stall and overspeed is something like 20 knots at that altitude. You're not going to be able to calculate your airspeed from the groundspeed within that margin. (FWIW, I'm pretty sure this GPS speed information is available in the cockpit already. If not, you can get it off your iPhone if you really care.)

Finally, the flaps-down speed range of a Cessna 152 is 35-85 kts. So if you're facing into 85kt winds with the flaps down, you're flying backwards and are overspeed. (This can happen with the flaps up too, of course, but winds of 149 kts are a little hard to believe :)

149 kts occurs daily -- at altitude.

For example the current winds aloft forecast for BML shows 155 kts at 30,000 feet:


While 149 kts at the 2,000 ft to 12,000 ft typical of Cessna 172 flight is rare, we had it in Seattle last week (wind speeds on the ground were 20 - 3 kts, at 3,000 feet we had 60 kt winds at 12,000 feet we had 100+ kts, can't remember exactly).

I'd guesstimate in the Seattle area it occurs once every 2 months below 20,000 feet. Above 20,000 feet, it's a regular occurrence.

Flying into 85kt winds will not put you overspeed, flaps down or up (assuming you're airborne, and not on the ground). Wind speed has no effect on aircraft air speed.

If you're flaps-up, engine at 2300 RPM, flying straight-and-level you're going to be cruising around 120kts airspeed in a C172 regardless of a 100kt headwind or 100kt tailwind.

Groundspeed is another story all together (and your fuel consumption getting to your destination).

True about the small margin between stall and overspeed, I didn't mean you could regularly fly like that. But according to the article, their air speed decreased from > 220knots to 90knots. What I meant was that regardless of wind, 90knots air speed should give you a ground speed so low that it should leave no doubt that you are stalled.

Apparently the PF was even thinking they were in overspeed at that point. So a ground speed should have told them that they weren't. But on the other hand, positive pitch angle and -10,000 ft/min vertical speed should also tell you beyond a doubt that you are stalled, so the problem here was not that the pilots didn't have the information they needed to figure out what was going on. They did, but failed to process it. It seems this is a classical case of "getting behind the airplane", they were just not processing events at the speed they were happening.

That's an interesting point. But if you're so panicked that you're ignoring the voice saying "stall", are you really going to check your GPS and then do a back-of-the-envelope to verify? Probably not. Because if you weren't panicked, you'd be out of the stall by following the stall recovery procedure.

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