Submit Press release  ∑ eTN Team ·  Advertising  ·  eTN Awards  - Worldtourism Events    

Buffalo Plane Crash

Crash pilot 'broke airline rules'  Feb 16, 2009

A plane that crashed into a house killing 50 people was in autopilot when it went down - violating airline policy, an aviation official has said.

Pilots are recommended to fly planes manually in icy conditions and required to do so in severe ice, said US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigator Steven Chealander.

The pilot of the doomed plane reported "significant" ice on his wings and windshield just before the crash-landing outside the northern US city of Buffalo.

The announcement was made after US investigators met to examine flight data and voice recordings taken inside the Continental Airlines Flight 3407.

All 49 passengers and crew were killed, as was a man inside the house, although his wife and daughter escaped with only minor injuries.

A team of around 150 people, including FBI, local law enforcement, the medical examiner's office and fire department volunteers are working at the site.

Investigators need three to four days to complete their work, which is being held up by ice and the difficulty in distinguishing plane wreckage from the remains of the house, Mr Chealander said.

"I know this seems as though this is going to be painstakingly slow, but unfortunately, we're not like... a CSI show on television where we can solve it all in one hour," he warned.

Federal investigators have suggested that ice build-up may have contributed to the crash, but Mr Chealander said the plane had "a very sophisticated de-icing system".

He added that both of the plane's engines appear to have been working normally, stressing that the NTSB has not reached a final conclusion about the cause of the crash.

The cockpit recorder and flight data recorder also showed that aerodynamic stall protection was activated on the aircraft, warning the pilot that there was not enough airflow over the wings to maintain lift, he said.

Investigators said black box recordings showed the crew had been concerned about the weather and low visibility due to snow and mist as they approached Buffalo.

They asked to drop to 11,000 feet, but began to see a problem with ice.

Mr Chealander also said that contrary to media reports, the plane had not nosedived but landed flat and orientated north-east, facing away from the direction in which it had been trying to approach.

The pilot has been identified as 47-year-old Marvin Renslow, who joined Colgan Air in 2005 and had flown more than 3,000 hours with the airline, according to a company spokesman.

Crash pilot 'broke airline rules'
The wreckage following the disaster in Buffalo, New York / Image via

Premium Partners