|Stick pusher stall training|
On February 12, 2009, Colgan 3407 approached the Buffalo airport. The captain, likely tired nearing the end of the day, began slowing the aircraft and configuring it for a stabilized approach Ten seconds later, the speed was rapidly decreasing and the pitch increasing from the autopilot maintaining altitude.
Three seconds later, the aircraft entered a stall. Of all the mistakes that were made that night, there was one that doomed the flight, and it is likely one that we the aviation community taught him.
For the next twenty seconds, Captain Renslow fought the Q400 in a semi-stalled state in a valiant attempt to maintain altitude, ignoring the stick shaker and pusher. In the end, Colgan 3407 entered a spin that he could not recover from and impacted the ground. But why did the captain react in such a manner?
When training and testing for a power-off stall in small aircraft for the commercial pilot certificate, the pilot slows to aerodynamic buffeting, then advances the power and accelerates while maintaining altitude. The throttle response from the piston engine is instantaneous, and aircraft flies away. Minimal altitude loss was the requirement, and zero loss of altitude was the standard. For the ATP flight test, an even easier recovery is made at the first indication of a stall, typically the stall-warning indicator.
The reasoning for this was sound; a power-off or landing stall is encountered either on final or just over the runway outside of ground effect. Any loss of altitude in these situations could be fatal. When Captain Renslow stalled his aircraft, he had approximately 1,500 feet of altitude to work with, but when the situation became critical, he returned to his primary training and instincts and maintained altitude.
In the aftermath of Colgan 3407, the FAA has been implementing many changes, some of them due to congressional mandate. One of the changes was the removal of traditional criteria in requirements for airman testing in power-off stalls, which was replaced with an examiners evaluation that should not mandate maintaining altitude during recovery.