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May 12th, 2009
07:24 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Panic in the Cockpit

An investigator walks past the wreckage from a plane crash in Clarence Center, New York, in February.

An investigator walks past the wreckage from a plane crash in Clarence Center, New York, in February.

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

There are disturbing new details tonight on the deadly plane crash near Buffalo, New York in February. According to the cockpit voice recorder transcript released today, Pilot Marvin Renslow screamed "Jesus Christ" and moments later First Officer Rebecca Shaw screamed as Flight 3407 plunged to the ground killing one person in a house and 49 others on the plane.

The transcripts also shows the two pilots discussed their lack of experience flying planes under icing conditions.

The information comes as federal investigators gather in Washington this week to figure out what went wrong during the deadly flight.

About two dozen relatives and friends of passengers killed watched a simulcast of today's hearing. They got to watch a  startling animation of the flight's final moments.

"The beginning animation was stomach-turning," said Ruthann Stilwell, whose sister Mary Abraham was killed on the flight. "I know they said it was two minutes but it seemed long."

Tonight, 360's Randi Kaye has a timeline of what happened inside the cockpit.  Did the pilot make a fatal mistake?

Colgan Air, which operated the flight, acknowledged Captain Renslow never had trained in a flight simulator with the emergency system activated. But it turns out, the FAA does not require such hands-on training. But would a pilot will more experience have met the same fate? Captain Renslow had just 110 flying hours in the type of plane that crashed. Colgan Air says he was fully qualified to fly the plane but had failed five training tests in his career.

"I just can't understand why they wouldn't have put the best in those cockpits. If their loved ones were flying in those planes, wouldn't they want the best captain they could get?," asked Karen Kuwik, whose son's girlfriend died in the accident.

Join us for this story and tonight's other headlines starting at 10pm ET.
See you then!


Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (56 Responses)
  1. Wayne Farley

    As an aviation professional, you are thought that accidents don't happen, they are caused. Here is yet another example how a combination of factors – icing conditions, non-essential conversations below 10,000 feet, lack of situational awareness and inexperienced flight crew – have conspired to cause an accident. That was just a terrible breakdown in the defenses.

    May 13, 2009 at 6:12 am |
  2. Jason

    His lack of hours in the aircraft probable means he upgraded from a different airframe. i am a regional pilot and this has been a constant complaint of mine. We have FO's from one aircraft upgrade to Captain on another. So no they are a brand new captain and have no experience in the aircraft. Great combination. I really hope the FAA steps in and requires all captains to have 500 hours in type as an FO before allowing them to switch to the Captain role.
    As I watch the flight path replay it's pretty obvious the airspeed was bleading off. I do think the FO saw it and just never said anything for whatever reason.

    May 13, 2009 at 1:48 am |
  3. Not a pilot

    Not everyone can be Sully

    Sadly we have to accept human error and lack of oversight .

    May 13, 2009 at 12:54 am |
  4. Ben

    I lecture at a university and sadly enough most students pass once the entry fee is paid (especially for graduate studies such as MSc.). do you want such a last-in-class graduate to design your plane? fly your plane? maintain your plane? no, but it will happen. (and "required standards" are often very flexible according to the need for funding...)

    May 13, 2009 at 12:40 am |
  5. Jerry

    As sad as it is the flying public will always want cheap transportation and that will ALWAYS equate to management wanting to pay as little as they can for labor. Commuters won't and can't afford to pay higher salaries and are mostly seen as entry level jobs for pilots.
    As for failing 5 checkrides, that was certainly not the norm at the airline that I flew for for 25 years. He would have been gone over with a fine tooth comb!

    May 13, 2009 at 12:35 am |
  6. pm

    Generally, the information a pilot learns to gain their type rating in a particular aircraft is freshest in their memory shortly after leaving the class. After only 110 hours, this pilot would have been very current on the details of operating this particular model of aircraft.

    I agree, the pilots should be allowed to practice using the "stick pusher" in their training. Practice make perfect, even in flying.

    I have a question as to the pilot's more general knowledge of flight and weather conditions. If I am a pilot that learns to fly in the Southern U.S. and most of my experience is in non-icing environments, then I would not have much practical experience with flying with ice on the aircraft. This might lead me into an situation where I was operating outside of my personal limitations and make improper decisions.

    May 13, 2009 at 12:33 am |
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