Real Life Save Due to APS Upset Training

On the Friday following Thanksgiving I received one of the prizes we get from time to time in the delivery of Upset Prevention and Recovery Training: an email from a recent student sharing the good news that he had employed the skills he learned at APS to address an incident involving an unexpected stick shaker engagement. Here is what he wrote:
“We were performing a GPS/LPV approach to a 5000′ wet runway in possible icing conditions. The wing anti ice was on. In accordance with our manual the autopilot was engaged…and the speed was Vref.
We both noticed the stall trend line higher than usual and I even checked the speed brakes stowed to make sure that wasn’t causing the problem. About 1000′ AGL we began to get bumped around a bit. At this point my hands were on the yoke (autopilot still engaged). At about 800′ the stick shaker fired, disconnecting the autopilot. Fortunately I was ready with the push, then power and recovered the aircraft. I resumed the approach (hand flying now) broke out and landed.
iPad UPRT v14 G5k.034After landing I called our maintenance department and chief pilot. Maintenance discovered that with the wing anti ice on (or with the ice detected CAS message) the stall threshold is raised by some (not published) amount. This was NOT presented at our initial training. We haven’t been to recurrent yet.
In hind sight I should have kicked off the autopilot… much earlier in the approach. I am very happy to report that there was no hesitation to push and I’m fairly sure no one in back noticed anything but a little low level turbulence. (No one said anything).”
While this incident was well contained and corrected by the crew member who offered this report, it is not difficult to imagine a different situation where awareness was not heightened through training, and hands were not guarding the controls. An unanticipated stall encounter and stick pusher engagement in the clouds at 800 feet above the ground could certainly have ended in a different manner if the pilot did not anticipate the possibility which was realized and know precisely what to do at the instant required.
Perhaps the most candid and illuminating comment provided by the reporting pilot was this: “I honestly never expected to use [my APS Training] and certainly not on a flight so close to training.” The incident pilot had attended training with APS less than two weeks before this reported occurrence.
This pilot is certainly not alone in his sentiment regarding his perceived need for training, but he gets credit for his candor. Airplane upsets, including unanticipated stalls, are relatively rare events. Most pilots are unaware of the threat if they have not yet been bitten by it. When unexpected airplane upset events do occur, the situation can be extremely serious, as in this case. Without prior training focused on situations not addresses in typical type rating training, the accident record shows us that the results can be catastrophic.

Randall Brooks
APS VP Training & Center Manager for APS Texas