weren’t for the fact that it ended in the horrible deaths of 49 human beings, the story would read like a comedy sketch: “Oh, wow, like, ice!” The
links to a of the pilots’ chatty conversation on the edge of death—their own death and that of all their passengers’. (Here is
BLABBING THEIR WAY TO ICY DOOM
CREW KEPT UP CHAT AMID WING FREEZE
BLUNDERS AND PANIC OVER BUFFALO
By DAPHNE RETTER in Washington and BILL SANDERSON and CHUCK BENNETT in NY
May 13, 2009
The two pilots flying a doomed Buffalo-bound commuter plane were so busy flirting and chatting about their lives, relationships and career goals that when ice built up on their wings and windshield, it became just another topic of conversation.
GLARING SIGNS SMALL TALK BECAME BIG PROBLEM
“I’ve never seen icing conditions. I’ve never de-iced,” said First Officer Rebecca Shaw, 24, according to a transcript released yesterday at a hearing by the National Transportation Safety Board.
She said she was happy to be second in command on the Dash 8 turboprop because she was glad “I don’t have to … make those kind of calls. You know, I’d have freaked out. I’d have, like, seen this much ice and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. We’re going to crash.’ “
At that point, the plane was at 2,300 feet and only minutes from disaster.
The pilot, Capt. Marvin Renslow, 47, said, “That’s the most [ice] I’ve seen on the leading edges [of the wings] in a long time. In a while, anyway, I should say.”
Then, he continued to regale her with tales from his short, undistinguished, career during the Newark-to-Buffalo Continental Connection Flight 3407 on Feb. 12.
Renslow said he had flown a mere 625 hours in the northeast before Colgan Air, the plane’s owner, hired him.
He chatted about some icing he’d once seen in West Virginia and Florida.
Four minutes later, the pilots made their biggest mistake—responding in the worst possible way to a warning that the plane was about to stall.
The automated “stick shaker” engaged, pushing the nose down so the plane could gain speed and keep flying.
The pilots overrode the system and pulled the nose up.
The plane flipped and plunged to the ground outside Buffalo in a ball of flames, killing all 49 people aboard and one person in a house.
Renslow’s last words were, “Jesus Christ,” then, “We’re down.” Shaw said “We’re—” and then screamed.
An aeronautical stall occurs when the air below the wings can’t support the weight of a plane. That happens when the plane is going too slow, when the wings are at a very acute angle, or when the wings are deformed by ice. Pilots are taught that pointing the nose down allows the plane to gain speed, gaining the pilot time to pull out of the stall.
Colgan Air acknowledged that Renslow’s training didn’t include how to handle the automatic stick-shaker system.
One training instructor told investigators that Renslow was “slow learning” on the Dash 8 but his abilities “picked up at the end.”
“Situational awareness was not where it belonged” during the flight, said Darrell Mitchell, Colgan’s director of training.
And that was the case for most of the flight.
Renslow drew laughter from Shaw with flirty comments like “Whee! This is fun,” during takeoff, and a warning not to be “dyslexic” when getting orders from air traffic control. He also mimicked accents of southern controllers.
At another point, Shaw quipped, “I’m assuming we’re only going to land once.”
Throughout the flight, Renslow and Shaw appeared to violate the “sterile cockpit” rule, which forbids all extraneous conversation to keep pilots focused on their tasks.
About two dozen anguished relatives of the victims attended the hearings in Washington, as others watched a telecast in Buffalo.
“You know there’s going to be a lot of things you don’t want to hear, but you just listen and learn,” said Kevin Kuwik, whose girlfriend, Lorin Maurer, 30, was killed on her way to a wedding.
Meanwhile, it was learned that:
* Renslow failed five certifi cation tests since 2005, when he became a pilot. “If you have two in a career spread across 30 years, that’s a lot,” said Jerry Skinner, an attorney with the Nolan Law Group, which specializes in aviation cases. He is not involved in any Flight 3407 litigation.
* Shaw may have been in no shape to fly. She had just arrived in Newark that morning on a redeye from Seattle.
Violating Colgan policy, Shaw decided to catch up on her sleep in the crew break room. FedEx pilot Jeffrey Kern told investigators that she said would nap on a new leather sofa “with her name on it.”
[end of Post article]