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Michael Phelan
Michael Phelan
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Frightening News About Buffalo Plane Crash

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According to people with knowledge of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation, the captain of a Colgan Air commuter plane that crashed Feb. 12 near Buffalo, N.Y. flunked numerous flight tests during his career and was never adequately taught how to respond to the emergency that led to the airplane crash. As a result, investigators and regulators are examining Colgan’s hiring and training practices. At a NTSB hearing which commences on Tuesday, witnesses are expected to provide new allegations about Colgan’s training shortcomings, as well as the prevalence of chronic pilot fatigue and lapses in cockpit discipline, and the agency is expected to be critical of the Federal Aviation Administration’s oversight of the airline. Colgan was operating the flight for Continental.

The New York Times (5/12, A21, Wald) reports, "As the National Transportation Safety Board prepares for three days of hearings on the crash beginning Tuesday, two gaps have become clear: A 1996 federal law intended to ensure that an airline hiring a new pilot would know about the pilot’s previous problems did not do the job; and the captain of the flight that crashed near Buffalo had never received hands-on training with a safety system that activated just before the plane went down."

During the CBS Evening News (12/6, story 8, 2:10, Couric), CBS (Cordes) said, "It was the worst crash the country has seen in seven years, killing 50. Now Colgan Air confirms the captain on that frigid Buffalo night, 47-year-old Marvin Renslow, had racked up five unsatisfactory test flights called check rides, two during his brief three-year tenure at the airline and three in the years before that." John Goglia, former member, NTSB, said, "It looks like we have two inexperienced crew members in the cockpit." At the hearing, according to NTSB sources, "the FAA’s standards will be a prime focus at the hearings." NBC Nightly News (5/11, story 5, 2:30, Williams) and the ABC World News (5/11, story 8, 1:30, Gibson) also covered the story.

This terrible airplane crash illustrates that sometimes we actually need more, not less, regulation to keep us safe.