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NTSB Investigates Fatal Crash Of Flight 3407

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, May 12, 2009 10:28 AM EST
Category: On The Road, Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Airline Safety, Airline Crashes, Pilot Error, Continental Airlines, Wrongful Death, Commuter Jets, National Transportation Safety Board, Federal Aviation Administration

Continental Connection Flight 3407 will be the subject of a NTSB hearing in Washington. Pilot error will be the focus.
Continental Connection Bombardier Q-400 

Pilot Error And Procedures Questioned


**New- Transcript of last few minutes has been released. They talk about experience deicing.  

Capt. Marvin Renslow was piloting Fl 3407 when it crashed short of the Buffalo runway in February 2009.
Capt. Marvin Renslow

Co-pilot Rebecca Lynne Shaw had just taken a red-eye overnight flight to report for duty aboard the doomed Continental Flight 3407.
Co-pilot Rebecca Lynne Shaw

 IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons/ Continental Connection Bombardier Q400/ author: Rudy Riet 

IMAGE SOURCE:  Co-pilot Rebecca Lynne Shaw, New York Times Web site

IMAGE SOURCE:  Capt. Marvin Renslow, New York Times Web site 

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. # 


Posted by Raven West
Tuesday, May 12, 2009 3:40 PM EST

So, you have a photo of the Captain, the man, in uniform, and the First Officer, WOMAN, in her graduation cap? GIVE ME A BREAK! How SEXIST can you get?

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, May 12, 2009 3:58 PM EST


That's a new one - your news editor may be many things, but as a woman who lived through the women's movement - sexist isn't on the list.

Thanks for your observation but the image was publicly available. Good luck to you!

Anonymous User
Posted by Brother Wayne
Tuesday, May 12, 2009 7:50 PM EST

After reading numerous articles on this story, it would appear this was a perfect storm for disaster, which had little to do with the ice on the wings.

1. The 47-year-old captain had only 109 hrs on this plane and more importantly, a spotty record. A good pilot would have been laser-focused on the landing preparations, not chatting. In a stall, he should have instinctively pushed forward on the stick to assist in gaining air speed even if it meant losing some altitude initially.
2. The first officer had 1600 hrs on this plane, but at age 24, one could argue she did not have the maturity and life experience of an older pilot. Instead of automatically pulling up the gear in the crisis, she wasted time asking the Captain whether this was correct.
3. Finally, the excessive chatter prior to landing reveals the state of mind of both cockpit crew members. They were not focused on the landing, but were talking unnecessarily during this critical phase, which, similar to cell phone use while driving, can lead to disaster. One could even argue that the fact the two were opposite sex may have contributed to the excessively chatty (though not flirtatious) conversation. Now **that** you might call sexist, but humans are human.

My 2 cents,
Brother Wayne

May the Holy Spirit be the Comforter for the families who continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones and deal with their grief and anger.

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 12:34 PM EST

Brother Wayne-

Your sentiments and points appear to be righto n target. What a tragic perfect storm.

In February- we did a story:

Do You Know How Much Your Pilot Makes?


Where it's pointed out that senior pilots such as Capt. Sully Sullenberger had to take substantial pay and pension cuts to keep their jobs as US Airways.

While regional pilots are often poorly paid. One tells us:

“I personally make $18-20,000 a year. I'm responsible for a 25,000,000 dollar airplane and fly hundreds of people safely to their destination every day. Is that really overpaid? Most major airline pilots make around $100,000. The average in the regionals is closer to 50,000. (FO's around the mid to upper 20's-, captains in the 50's-60's). When I was a flight instructor (for 2 years), I made 12,000 a year.”

Training salaries for regional jets that can kill you as quickly as a jumbo jet? What's wrong with this picture?

Thanks for writing.

Anonymous User
Posted by Dave
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 2:08 PM EST

I went through flight school, got my pilots license and for a little while was on track to become an airline pilot. I saw the starting salaries that my friends got (18-25k a year) and got out of it real quick.

This is what happens when you pay someone that is responsible for people's lives peanuts.

You would be horrified to know the caliber pilot that gets jobs with companies, like Colgan, that put profits above safety.

Frankly I expect to see many more crashes like this until they improve pay to attract good pilots. Unfortunately this is also a result of passengers wanting bargain basement airfare.

Posted by Gerry McGill
Wednesday, May 13, 2009 4:30 PM EST

I have handled contingent fee cases for 30 years and I am a defender of the system which allows people who have valid cases to take on big corporations. But over and over again in commercial airline crashes I see survivors of the victims sign contingent fee contracts with lawyers, paying the same contingent fee percentage as they would for contested product liability or medical malpractice cases. Let's be honest, the only thing contingent in these cases is the amount of the recovery, not the liability. There are usually no investigation or expert costs. The NTSB does the work. The families of the victims should get the benefit of this reflected in a lower percentage contingent fee.

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, May 15, 2009 3:16 PM EST


One of the most impressive things I ever heard an attorney say was that no client would take home less than he did.

You would think that would be the standard. Is it?

Posted by Gabrielle D'Alemberte
Wednesday, May 20, 2009 11:21 AM EST

Yes, clients take home more than attorneys in every case, but where its gets complicated is medical liens. Since the liens are taken out of the clients' recovery (and this is hard for clients to understand that their health insurer than gets paid a premium for coverage, then comes in a recoups its money paid towards a person's medical care and treatment).
When the payout comes, those liens come from the clients' recovery (since they are direct benefit to client), but it sure is hard to see doctors and health insurance companies come in and profit from the injuries suffered by someone and from the hard work of the attorney who helps them prevail.

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, May 20, 2009 2:02 PM EST


Thanks for that explaination, it helps in understanding the big picture.

I can understand the frustration of attorneys when an insurance company comes in at the end and benefits from their hard work.

Afterall, isn't that why we pay premiums? Shouldn't there be a cap on what they eventually can recover if there is an award?

Comments for this article are closed.

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