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The Last Minutes Of Continental Flight 3407

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Sunday, February 15, 2009 8:09 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Continental Airlines, Major Medical, Airplane Crash, Protecting Your Family, Airlines, Plane Crashes, Airline Industry

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IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons / A Continental Connection Bombarder Q400

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), on Sunday, said commuter Flight 3407 that crashed three days ago in Buffalo, New York, appeared to be flying normally until just 26 seconds before it came down.

Continental Connection Flight 3407 to Buffalo from Newark, crashed into a home just six miles from Buffalo’s Niagara International Airport, killing all 49 passengers and one man inside the home.

Weather conditions have emerged as a central focus of the investigation. The NTSB disclosed on Friday, that the recovered cockpit voice recorder captured the pilots discussing ice buildup on the wings and other parts of the plane shortly before it plummeted from the sky.

According to preliminary information provided by Steven Chealander, spokesman and NTSB member assigned to the scene, during the last minute of flight, the plane flew about 1,600 feet above the ground, southwest toward the Buffalo airport; the crew lowered the landing gear. Seconds later, one of the pilots attempted to extend the flaps to 15 degrees, standard procedure before landing.

The airplane’s nose immediately began to pitch violently up and down and and roll side to side. The stick shaker, a mechanical device that rapidly and noisily vibrates the control yoke (the "stick") of an aircraft to warn the pilot of an imminent stall, came on. It takes matters out of the pilots’ hands by pushing the yoke forward, thereby pushing the nose down and increasing airspeed to avoid stalling.

The crew increased engine power, but was never able to regain control: the plane hit the house, having spun around to face northeast, although it was flying southwest.

A Mystery Unfolding

The description of the crash indicates the aircraft – a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 – suffered an aerodynamic stall, which means the flow of air over the wings was disrupted or too slow to sustain flight. But, thus far, the reason is a mystery to investigators.

Icing, which the crew reported shortly before crashing, is one possible reason, but Mr. Chealander, said the airplane had a sophisticated ice protection system.

"The plane was equipped with pneumatic boots, similar to tires, on the front edge of the wings. The tail and vertical stabilizer inflate and contract twice a minute to break accumulations of ice, and has electrically heated propellers. The system notifies the cockpit if any boot is not working, and so far, investigators have not found such indications," said Mr. Chealander.

“This Dash 8 is a workhorse airplane,” he said. “It’s not susceptible to ice.”

The NTSB usually takes from a 12 to 18 months to reach a final conclusion, although, general outlines become clear within a few days.

Thursday’s crash was the first fatal crash of a commercial flight in the U.S. since August 2006, when a Delta Comair jet crashed in Lexington, Kentucky, killing 49 people.

In January, Captain Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III was able to steer a US Airways Flight to a water landing that has been dubbed “Miracle on the Hudson,” when geese were sucked into both engines of the aircraft sapping them of thrust. All 155 passengers and crew members survived. #


3 Comments

Anonymous User
Posted by edward r gendron
Monday, February 16, 2009 7:00 PM EST

Can someone tell me when this aircraft was last in for any type of repairs or service and where was it performed???
Thank you
Edward Gendron

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Monday, February 16, 2009 9:17 PM EST

Edward,

In the articles that I have read so far, I haven't seen that information mentioned. That's not to say it doesn't exist, I just haven't yet found it yet. If I do, I will be sure to post here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous User
Posted by Richard Dobell
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 1:08 AM EST

Commercially registered aircraft must abide by stringent FAA service schedules, and airlines' policies include "double checked" procedures.
A couple of Bombardier aircraft have crashed in Europe in recent years; and the Safety Inquiry there implicated the landing gear assembly design/function in its conclusion.
The deicing system on Flight 3407 was cycling through at 30 second intervals; and yet the pilot reported "significant" (not an FAA designation) icing on the leading edge of the wing. Possible ice accretion on the main body of the wings might have slowly distorted aircraft performance but been compensated by auto-pilot up to the point the flaps were lowered, when assymetrical break- up of that wing ice severly changed the shape of the airflow over the wings, causing an incipient stall condition, which in turn cancelled the auto-pilot, suddenly revealing the accumulated flight instability which, coupled with the drag of the newly deployed landing gear and flaps became impossible to fly.
NTSB said the plane was approaching Niagara at 160 mph prior to initiating the landing procedures. Stall speed (clean, or with gear & flaps down?) listed as 120 mph; so something broke! Landing gear cataclism as in Europe, or did shattering wing ice ruin one of the flaps? Flying with one flap in marginal lift conditions will generally terminate at the scene of the crash.
This leaves alot of sorrow in its wake. I hope the NTSB investigators will do their utmost to avoid another conclusion of "pilot error", and discover the true reasons it occured; so that it can be avoided in the future.

Comments for this article are closed.

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