Continental Flight 3407

by NPHM | January 18th, 2010

The United States had enjoyed a long period without “major” aviation disasters, but that streak ended on Feb. 12, 2009. A transcript released in May from the cockpit voice recorder of Flight 3407 offered a glimpse of the trouble the aircraft was having before it crashed near Buffalo, New York, killing all 49 on board plus one person on the ground.

First Officer Rebecca Shaw and Captain Marvin Renslow discussed the buildup of ice on the wings just prior to something going awry with the plain. Over a period of about 30 seconds, the crew became acutely aware that something was wrong and they were going down.

The Bombardier Q400 turboprop in the crash was operated by commuter carrier Colgan Air Inc., a division of Pinnacle Airlines Corp.

A Wall Street Journal article published in May, 2009, said that “Capt. Marvin Renslow had never been properly trained by the (airline) company to respond to a warning system designed to prevent the plane from going into a stall, according to people familiar with the investigation. As the speed slowed to a dangerous level, setting off the stall-prevention system, he did the opposite of the proper procedure, which led to the crash, these people said.

“Additionally, his 24-year-old co-pilot, Rebecca Shaw, had complained before takeoff about being congested and said she probably should have called in sick, according to people who have listened to the cockpit voice recording.”

The Journal also said that the “circumstances surrounding Continental Connection Flight 3407 have prompted investigators and regulators to examine Colgan’s hiring and training practices.”

In mid-December, Colgan blamed the crash on pilot error. Colgan Air says in a report to the National Transportation Safety Board that the pilot’s inattention and failure to follow safety rules likely caused the crash. An NTSB investigation exposed critical errors by the twin-engine turboprop’s captain, Marvin Renslow, and co-pilot Rebecca Shaw.

In the aftermath of the crash, family members who lost loved ones have demanded more pilot training to be required. A House bill is in the works that would require 1,500 hours of cockpit training for all pilots but the FAA disagrees with the proposal.

Transcript of last moments of Flight 3407:

Aviation Attorney Charles Brewer discusses possible causes of Flight 3407 crash.

Video and interview from witness Sam Merlo.

Families of Continental Flight 3407

Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009: