Continental Connection Bombardier Q-400
Pilot Error And Procedures Questioned
Moments before a twin-engine turboprop hit the ground killing 49 people onboard and one in the house below, the pilot yelled "Jesus Christ," and the first officer screamed.
A cockpit voice recorder was released today by the National Transportation Safety Board as it holds hearings on what caused Flight 3407 to plunge to the ground last February 12 near Buffalo, New York.
All eyes are on the pilot, Capt. Marvin Renslow, 47 and his capabilities of commanding a Bombardier Q400 turboprop.
Capt. Renslow had reportedly flunked numerous flight tests and had never been adequately trained on how to respond to an emergency situation that sent the plane into a descent to pick up speed as it neared the runway. Capt. Renslow did the opposite of proper procedure when that happened.
Additionally, the medical condition of his co-pilot, 24-year old Rebecca Shaw, who arrived to work feeling sick after taking a red-eye flight, has led to questions about chronic fatigue of crew members.
The Continental Connection Flight 3407, operated by Colgan Air, a division of Pinnacle Airlines Corp. had taken off from Newark, N.J. during icy conditions with Renslow as captain even though he had reportedly started flying that particular craft just two months earlier.
As it approached, the black box recorder shows, the crew exchanged light conversation, something prohibited under federal rules while flying below 10,000 feet, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The plane dropped to a low speed, 115 miles per hour, and an emergency system engaged, called a “stick-pusher,” that automatically forces the plane into a dive to regain speed and avoid a stall. Capt. Renslow then reported yanked back on the controls, the opposite of procedure, while adding thrust to override the stick-pusher. Instead of gaining speed, the plant lost lift and started to roll. It then slammed into a house killing the occupant.
Capt. Renslow had 109 hours of experiencing flying the Q400, but his record shows he had extensive remedial training and had failed three proficiency checks on generation aviation administered by the FAA. He also reportedly had five unsatisfactory training check rides in his career, before passing six consecutive competency tests.
Colgan Air, based in Manassas, Virginia, said in February that Capt. Renslow “had the highest possible pilot certification” and was was “fully qualified” to operate the Q400.
Commercial airlines rarely keep pilots who require extensive remedial training, the Journal reports.
It was the deadliest accident in commercial aviation in seven years.
The three-day NTSB hearing will involve all five board members looking at the effect of icing that day, crew experience, fatigue and the training for stall recovery.
Onboard the flight was Beverly Eckert, a Sept. 11 widow who had planned to name a scholarship in her husband’s name at his old high school, and Alison Des Forges, a human rights advocate and chronicler of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. #