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February 5, 2010

NTSB says pilot error caused crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407

NTSB says pilot error caused crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407

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Friday, February 5, 2010

Aviation

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A Colgan Air Dash 8 Q400, in in Continental Connection livery, similar to the aircraft involved
Image: Rudi Riet.

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that the captain of Colgan Air Flight 3407, which crashed nearly a year ago outside Buffalo, New York during its approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport, “inappropriately responded to the activation of the stick shaker, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which the aeroplane did not recover,” according to a statement issued by the NTSB.

The flight, operating as a codeshare with Continental Airlines under their Continental Connection brand, crashed last year on February 12, 2009 in Clarence Center, New York. The Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, crashed into a residence killing everyone on board as well as one on the ground.

The NTSB has blamed pilot error and poor training for the crash, noting that the plane’s captain, Marvin Renslow, “had not established a good foundation of attitude instrument flying skills early in his career, and his continued weaknesses in basic aircraft control and instrument flying were not identified and adequately addressed.” Renslow’s career spanned two decades and had failed five performance checks during that time. Colgan Air was only aware of three. Colgan said had they known about the other two, they would not have hired Renslow in 2005.

Colgan Air responded to the NTSB report in a letter: “They [the pilots] knew what to do in the situation they faced that night a year ago, had repeatedly demonstrated they knew what to do, and yet did not do it. We cannot speculate on why they did not use their training in dealing with the situation they faced.”

The Board added that Renslow’s response to the “stick shaker activation should have been automatic, but his improper flight control inputs were inconsistent with his training and were instead consistent with startle and confusion. The 24-year-old first officer, Rebecca Lynne Shaw, was noted for her young age and lack of experience.

Cquote1.svg It was continuous and one-sided, with the captain doing most of the talking. It was as if the flight was just a means for the captain to conduct a conversation with this young first officer. Cquote2.svg

—Robert Sumwalt, NTSB board member

The Board also concluded that “the pilots’ performance was likely impaired because of fatigue.” Renslow and Shaw had spent the night at the crew lounge at Newark Liberty International Airport in violation of Colgan Air’s company policies. However, the board voted down making fatigue a contributing factor. Shaw, the first officer, had flown the previous night on two separate planes from the Pacific Northwest where she lived with her parents. Shaw also appeared to be suffering from a bad cold.

However, the report also criticized Colgan saying that the airline, “did not pro-actively address the pilot fatigue hazards associated with operations at a predominantly commuter base.” Adding that, “Operators have a responsibility to identify risks associated with commuting, implement strategies to mitigate these risks, and ensure that their commuting pilots are fit for duty.”

Another factor brought up the by the NTSB was the violation of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) sterile cockpit rule. It was noted that first officer Shaw had sent two text messages before take-off at Newark. The second message was sent two minutes before take-off.

Cquote1.svg Recent NTSB investigations have identified personal wireless technology use on the job. This phenomenon is becoming more widespread, and these phone calls, texts and other distractions have deadly consequences and must be addressed with all due haste by the transportation industry. Cquote2.svg

—Deborah Hersman, NTSB Chairwoman

Prior to landing, the cockpit voice recorder recorded that the pilots were holding a conservation that potentially distracted the captain from operating the plane. Robert Sumwalt, a member of the NTSB board said, “It was continuous and one-sided, with the captain doing most of the talking.” He added, “It was as if the flight was just a means for the captain to conduct a conversation with this young first officer.”

An animated reconstruction by the NTSB, which shows the last 2 minutes of Colgan Air Flight 3407. (2:38)
Image: National Transportation Safety Board.

The chairwoman of the NTSB, Deborah Hersman, has noted that electronic devices are becoming a hazard to transportation. Hersman said, “Recent NTSB investigations have identified personal wireless technology use on the job. This phenomenon is becoming more widespread, and these phone calls, texts and other distractions have deadly consequences and must be addressed with all due haste by the transportation industry.”

The agency noted that distractions from electronics have played a part in many recent accidents and incidents, such as the August 2009 mid-air collision between a small private Piper aeroplane and a tour helicopter over the Hudson River in New York City killing all involved. The NTSB noted that one of the air traffic controllers was making a phone call and failed to warn the aircraft of the conflict that existed between each other in their airspace. However, this was disputed by the National Air Traffic Controllers Association which represents air traffic controllers nationwide. The NTSB later retracted some of its statements.

The other notable incident was that of Northwest Airlines Flight 188 in October, that overshot its destination of Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport by 150 miles (241 km) before the pilots noticed. The pilots claimed they were checking schedules on their laptop computers in violation of basic piloting rules, the sterile cockpit rule and the policy of Delta Air Lines, who had recently acquired Northwest.

The NTSB’s last board meeting which was held two weeks ago, about the 2008 train collision between a Metrolink commuter rail train and a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth, California also pertained to distractions by electronic devices. In the statement released by the NTSB for that meeting, the board stated that “according to records from the wireless provider, on the day of the accident, while on duty, both the Metrolink engineer and the Union Pacific conductor used wireless devices to send and receive text messages.” The NTSB has recommended that audio and video recorders be installed in locomotive and control cabs because of the collision.



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February 18, 2009

Buffalo, New York plane crash may have resulted from pilot error

Buffalo, New York plane crash may have resulted from pilot error

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Disasters and accidents

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A Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, similar to the aircraft involved in the incident

The investigation into Continental Connection Flight 3407, which crashed near Buffalo, New York last week, suggests that the pilot of the turboprop commuter airliner may have put the aircraft into its plunge.

A source close to the investigation says that information from the flight data recorder on board the aeroplane indicated that the pilot’s control column, the device which is used to steer the aircraft, was pulled upward abruptly, thereby causing the nose of the aeroplane to pitch up.

The sudden pitch-up movement happened soon after the flight crew received a warning in the cockpit that the aircraft was about to stall. In aviation, a stall is when the air no longer flows over the wings of an aeroplane, and the aircraft can no longer keep the lift necessary to keep it airborne, causing it to fall.

The normal manoeuvre to recover from a stall for wing icing is to apply full power to the engines and push the nose down. For a tail stall recovery, the opposite procedure is used: the nose should be pulled up and engine power reduced. In this instance, the pilot seems to have pulled the nose upward, but also increased the engine throttles to their full setting.

After the aeroplane pulled up abruptly, it then pitched down at an angle of 31 degrees, rolling left and right, partially upside-down. This sort of stall is known as an aggravated stall, and it can be very difficult to return the aeroplane to normal flight from one. In this case, the pilot had less than two thousand feet to do so before the aircraft crashed into the ground.

The pilot’s training has now been put into question, and it was discovered that the captain, Marvin Renslow, aged 47, had logged only 110 hours in this particular aircraft, though he had thousands of hours in similar aircraft. Experts say his experience should have adequately prepared him.

A spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board, Keith Holloway, said that it is currently too early to definitively say what caused the crash. “We have not concluded anything,” he said.

Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed into a house in Clarence Center, a suburb of Buffalo on February 12 in icy weather, killing all 49 people on board the aeroplane and one person on the ground.



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February 16, 2009

Airplane that crashed near Buffalo, New York \’was on autopilot\’

Airplane that crashed near Buffalo, New York ‘was on autopilot’

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Monday, February 16, 2009

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A Bombarder Q400 Continental Connection, similar to the airplane involved in the accident

Investigators have stated that Continental Connection Flight 3407, which crashed in icy weather near Buffalo, New York on February 12, was on autopilot when it went down, and that the pilot flying the aircraft might have violated the airline’s policy and federal safety recommendations.

The plane involved in the incident was a Bombardier Dash 8, which crashed into a home located at 6038 Long Street in Clarence Center, a suburb of Buffalo. It went down at approximately 10:17 p.m. EST (03:20 UTC), February 12. 44 passengers, an off-duty pilot, and four crew members died in the accident, as well as one person on the ground.

When the plane crashed, it was carrying over 2.5 tonnes (5,000 pounds) of fuel. Amid rain and sleet, the aircraft exploded into a huge orange fireball, sparking a large fire which emergency crews had to contain. Twelve houses near the crash site were evacuated.

Steve Chealander, an investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said that the company which operated the flight suggests the pilot to fly manually when conditions are icy, saying that “you may be able in a manual mode to sense something sooner than the autopilot can sense it.”

“If the autopilot is left on while the ice is building up, the pilot may suddenly be confronted with a very difficult situation,” said William Voss, president of the Flight Safety Foundation, speaking to the Toronto Star. “Ice actually changes the shape of the wing. If you don’t keep the wings clean you could find yourself in a situation where […] suddenly the aircraft decides to quit flying.”

The airplane’s data recorders suggest that there was a significant accumulation of ice on the aircraft’s wings and windshield before it crashed. Shortly before the crash, according to the flight voice recorder, the pilots were talking about the poor weather and ask the traffic controller for permission to descend. The airplane’s de-icing system had been turned on before the crew had discussed the ice. Recordings of communications seemed to be normal until soon before impact, and the flight crew did not notify air traffic control of any problems.

Investigations have suggested that the aircraft was headed away from its destination airport when it went down.



Related news

  • “Fifty killed in commuter plane crash in Clarence Center, New York” — Wikinews, February 13, 2009

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Continental Connection Flight 3407

* “Fatal US plane ‘was on autopilot’” — BBC News Online, February 15, 2009

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February 13, 2009

Fifty killed in commuter plane crash in Clarence Center, New York

Fifty killed in commuter plane crash in Clarence Center, New York

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Friday, February 13, 2009

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A Continental Connection flight from Newark to Buffalo crashed into a house about four to six miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Thursday night, killing 50 people, officials said.

Continental Airlines Flight 3407 is a daily commuter flight from Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey to Buffalo, New York, operated under the Continental Connection brand by Virginia-based regional airline Colgan Air.

Map of the State of New York and its location within the United States.

The Buffalo News has reported that the plane, a Bombardier Dash 8 turboprop with tail number N200WQ has crashed into a home located at 6038 Long Street, not far from the Clarence Center Fire Hall in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence Center approximately 10:17 p.m. EST (03:20 UTC), Thursday, February 12, 2009. Three people were inside the house.

According to Becky Gibbons of New York State Police and Chris Collins County Executive in Erie County, New York, the total number of fatalities is 50, including 45 passengers, four crew members and a person on the ground, while a woman and daughter on the ground were injured, near the edge of farmland, about seven miles from Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

Karen Wielinski, age 57, and her daughter, Jill, age 22 were brought to Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital in Williamsville where they are in stable condition in the emergency room. The father, Douglas C. Wielinski, 61 died from his injuries. Two volunteer firefighters are also being treated for smoke inhalation and minor injuries. They are expected to be released later Friday morning.

The crew member names have been released as of 8:20 AM EST, and are listed as: Captain Marvin Renslow, First Officer Rebecca Shaw, Flight Attendant Matilda Quintero, Flight Attendant Donna Prisco, and Captain Joseph Zuffoletto who was an off-duty crew member.

One of the crash victims, Beverly Eckert, of Stamford, Connecticut and widow of 9/11 terror attack victim, Buffalo native, Sean Rooney, was coming home for her husband’s 58th birthday celebration. Her sister, Sue Bourque noted to The Buffalo News, “We know she was on that plane and now she’s with him.” Chris Kausner has said his sister Elise, age 24, a law student, was on board the plane. “I’m thinking about the fact that my mother has to fly home from Florida and what I’m going to tell my two sons,” he said.

The plane, which was carrying over 2.5 tonnes (5,000 pounds) of fuel, impacted a residence that was completely destroyed. Amid rain and sleet, the ill-fated plane exploded into a huge orange fireball, sparking a large fire which emergency crews had to contain. Twelve houses near the crash site were evacuated.

The aircraft in question was on approach to land at the nearby Buffalo Niagara International Airport when it disappeared from radar.

Cquote1.svg It sounded quite loud, and then the sound stopped. Then one or two seconds later, there was a thunderous explosion. The whole sky was lit up orange. Cquote2.svg

—Eyewitness David Luce and resident Bob Dworak

According to recordings from air traffic control, the pilot did not report any problem to approach control, and could not be contacted by the Buffalo tower after handoff. “Can other planes see anything?” asked the traffic controller, but no one has responded. The pilot’s last comment was “Colgan Flight 3407,” but there were no sounds of distress.

The Buffalo News has reported that crew members aboard the flight from Newark Airport reported mechanical problems as they approached Buffalo. Weather conditions were reported to be a wintry mix in the area, with light snow, fog, and 17 mile per hour winds.

In the 31-minute audio-recording there are conversations between the cockpit, air traffic control and other aircraft in the vicinity. Following take-off from Newark Airport, a female voice (pilot) in the 3407 plane’s cockpit is heard informing air authorities that her aircraft was turning on approach to landing. The pilot stopped communicating at 2,300ft.

“This aircraft was 5 miles out, all of a sudden we have no response from that aircraft,” the controller declares. 21 minutes and 45 seconds into the recording, the control tower informs a JetBlue Airlines: “…apparently we have an emergency, I’ll have to get back to you,” reported The Daily Telegraph.

Cquote1.svg We know she was on that plane and now she’s with him. Cquote2.svg

—Sue Bourque, sister of 9/11 widow Beverly Eckert

“It was cold, snowing and dark but these planes are designed to fly in icy conditions. However, those conditions can be very fickle and if ice builds up on a plane it can be very difficult. At this time of year, when a pilot crashes approaching an airport that they will know well, the first thing you look at is the weather,” said David Learmount, of Flight International.

Continental Airlines Inc. said Colgan Air was in the process of collecting information. “Continental extends its deepest sympathy to the family members and loved ones of those involved in this accident. We are providing our full assistance to Colgan Air so that together we can provide as much support as possible for all concerned,” said Larry Kellner, CEO of Continental Airlines since December 2004.

Colgan’s N196WQ at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, a Bombardier Dash 8, sister to the lost N200WQ.

The Bombardier Dash 8 a 74-seat is a twin-engined, medium range, turboprop airliner.

According to the Ascend Online Fleets database, Colgan, a company of about 1,100 employees has a fleet of 15 Bombardier Dash 8’s, along with 3 Hawker Beechcraft 1900D and 38 Saab 340B turboprops. Flight 3407’s airplane was less than one year old and had flown for only about 1,500 hours, said Kieran Daly, of the online aviation news service Air Transport Intelligence, saying that the doomed turboprop plane is one of the safest of its type.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) has permanently grounded its Dash 8s fleet after three crash landings during a two-month period in 2007 caused by faulty landing gear. “Confidence in the Q400 has diminished considerably and our customers are becoming increasingly doubtful about flying in this type of aircraft,” said Mats Jansson, SAS president and CEO. “I have decided to immediately remove Dash 8 Q400 aircraft from service,” he added.

“There is ‘no indication of any security related event’ that brought the plane down,” said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko. Conditions of freezing drizzle, known as hard rime, were the most likely cause of the tragedy.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced that they would send a team to the crash site on Friday to begin the investigation. Lorenda Ward will serve as chief investigator with the assistance of NTSB Commissioner Steven Chealander and public affairs officer Keith Holloway. Ward has investigated several other plane crashes — including the 2006 New York City plane crash that claimed the life of New York Yankees pitcher Corey Lidle.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic accident that occurred tonight in Clarence. Our focus right now is on supporting the first responders on the ground and their efforts to ensure the health and safety of people in the area,” said Chris Lee, an Republican politician from Corning, New York, representing the 26th Congressional District of New York.

The tragedy is the nation’s deadliest disaster since the Comair Flight 191 crashed in Lexington, Kentucky in August 2006. Delta Air Lines Flight 5191 was a scheduled U.S. domestic passenger flight from Lexington, Kentucky, to Atlanta, Georgia. On the morning of August 27, 2006, the Bombardier Canadair Regional Jet 100ER that was being used for the flight crashed while attempting to take off from Blue Grass Airport in Fayette County, Kentucky, four miles (6 kilometers) west of the central business district of the City of Lexington.

Financially, Continental is faced with volatile fuel prices amid a slowdown from the weak economy. It has posted losses of $585 million for 2008.



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Wikipedia Learn more about Continental Airlines Flight 3407 and Clarence Center, New York on Wikipedia.
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