FAA to Look at Pilot Training Programs After Buffalo Plane Crash

Following the fatal <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/topics/overview/airplane_accidents">Continental Flight 3407 crash

that killed all 49 crew and passengers and one resident on the ground in Buffalo, NY on February 12, federal officials will be increasing pilot training program inspections at regional airlines, reports the Associated Press (AP).

Last month, the Chicago Tribune reported that investigators told a National Transportation Safety Board Pride & Prejudice the movie (NTSB) panel that an early-warning alarm might have alerted the crew to the drop in speed that preceded the tragic Buffalo crash. The plane involved was a Colgan Air-operated Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprop.

According to Federal Aviation Administrator (FAA) Randy Babbitt, said the AP, based on the circumstances surrounding the Buffalo crash, safety improvements are called for. Ray LaHood, Transportation Secretary, along with Babbitt, said they plan on convening a meeting with key members of industry to work on improved “pilot training” and “cockpit discipline,” among other improvements, according to the AP.

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It has long been speculated that the plane likely dropped to an unsafe slow speed, losing critical lift in its final landing approach. The onboard stall-warning system alerted the pilot and automatically activated the “stick pusher,” a device in which the control column is pushed forward to angle the plane’s nose down to regain speed. It was at this moment that pilot error might have occurred and when the pilot acted against established protocols, which call for pushing forward and lowering the nose to escape a stall. Instead, the captain pulled back on the controls and added power, moves that resulted in the flight’s fatal end. By attempting to raise the nose and maintaining controls, the pilot likely slowed the plane to a dangerous level in which an aerodynamic stall would have been guaranteed.

Since the catastrophic crash, Congress has expressed concern regarding commuter airline safety, reported the Wall Street Journal. A Senate panel is scheduled to hold a hearing tomorrow and the House on Thursday on FAA oversight of regional airlines, said the AP.

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The AP pointed out that the captain probably did not have direct safety system training, the co-pilot discussed her lack of experience flying in icy conditions (based on flight voice recorder data), and pilot fatigue was probably at play. These types of stressors and training gaps are of particular concern, noted the Journal. For instance, earlier this year, FAA inspectors discovered over 20 different “alleged” violations such as failure to receive FAA approval for training aids, “incomplete manuals, and trained dispatchers and supervisors,” said the Journal. Senator Byron Dorgan (Democrat-North Dakota), chairman of the Senate subcommittee, said “disclosures about crew rest, compensation, training, and many other issues demonstrate the urgent need” to revisit commuter safety, quoted the Journal.

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Captain John Prater, head of the Air Line Pilots Association—“the largest union representing cockpit crews, said the Journal, will speak at a House hearing later this week regarding how hiring and training systems practices “have significant safety drawbacks, reported the Journal. Prater is not alone, former airline pilot and current member of the National Transportation Safety Board, Robert Sumwalt, was recently quoted as saying that, “from a consumer’s point of view and a safety point of view, the single level of safety is an issue that should be carefully looked at.”

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