This essay describes and analyzes Colgan Air Flight 3407, 2009 accident and its consequences for the Colgan Air Company and other airlines in the USA. The information collected provides a comprehensive vision on the catastrophe and helps to perform an accurate evaluation of the newly developed regulations and requirements to air industry enterprises and pilots. The research discusses clear evidence of pilot’s error that caused the crash of Bombardier Dash-8 Q400. The other factors, such as weather (e.g. fog, snow, wind, and ice-coverage), fatigue and medication for reduction of blood pressure found in captain’s specimen were just additional causes. Crew members’ errors are based on inappropriate level of their education and experience and failure of the firm’s management to notice this factor. The purpose of this paper is to show how one particular accident can reveal existing problems in process of hiring, training, education and examination of crew members. This catastrophe has led to improvement of current requirements to crew members, deepening and broadening the scope of their education, and improvement the pilots’ schedule for providing more time for their rest between flights. It is notable that these changes concerned not just Colgan Air Company. Most of air companies in the USA agreed with them and implemented those in their performance.
The event will be presented in the most accurate manner to help the reader to understand all causes and consequences of the catastrophe. Moreover, consequences of further investigations of crash of the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 will be stated in order to determine the effect of pilot’s criminalization on the existing system of pilot education and its challenges.
Colgan Air Flight 3407, 2009 Accident
Colgan Air Flight was operated by Colgan Air. On February 12, 2009, bombardier Dash-8 Q400 during its flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport crashed on private home and caused a fire, which was 5 miles northwest from the airport. The plane experienced the aerodynamic stall. It is one of the most considerable crashes in the current history of commercial American aviation. The crash led to the death of 47 passengers, 2 crewmembers, and one person on the ground (Carey, 2009).
That day, the weather was windy and snowy, with some fog. During the flight, the airplane accumulated some ice because the crew did not switch on the de-icing system in the appropriate time. However, this amount of ice was not enough to make considerable harm to the airplane and its flight. The Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 remained to be under control.
Also, it should be noted that during the flight and at the time of airplane’s landing approach the crew used autopilot. No damages or incorrect working of the airplane’s systems were determined in the Newark Liberty International Airport before the flight. The captain and the first officer provide specimens before that flight. These specimens were negative for any illicit substances and alcohol. Nevertheless, captain’s specimen showed some amount of blood pressure medication approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Therefore, here were no any considerable outer factors, such as sharp weather conditions, considerable problems with health of the captain and the first officer, or inappropriate condition of Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 and its systems that could affect the flight and could lead to this catastrophe (Baxter, 2009).
The captain received the alert signal form stick shaker about an impending stall with vibrations of the controls and very low speed of Bombardier Dash-8 Q400. Nonetheless, he did not perform proper procedures for recovering. The pilot had to push airplane’s nose in order to increase airspeed and add power to engines. However, he added only two third of necessary power and made an opposite to necessary action – pulled the yoke back and decreased airplane’s airspeed and reduced control. These actions led to the aerodynamic stall since the angle of attack increased and the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 became unstable. At the same time, the first officer retracted gear and flaps. The airplane was uncontrolled and started rolling. The combination of captain and first officer’s actions led to the crash of the airplane. During the accident, the crew did not make any emergency statements.
Investigation and Consequences
Special investigation was performed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). It is an American governmental investigation agency that performs investigations of various transportation accidents, including aviation ones. Fourteen different investigations, involving Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) and Flight Data Recorder (FDR) investigations were performed by the NTSB. The Agency proved that weather situation and airplanes’ conditions could not lead to catastrophe. The airplane was pitching and rolling, but the pilots did not give any warning signals to passengers. Besides, pilots received safety alert considering using autopilot during de-icing, but they did not appropriately react on this alert.
Additional investigations showed that the captain did not pass three flight tests before that day. As a result, most probably, he was not adequately trained for performing the flight and reaching on the emergency situation. Moreover, according to the report of the Agency, the preliminary situation was not emergency of enormous. Both pilots did not make appropriate actions and this caused the airplane’s crash. Furthermore, as the report of the NTSB based on the records analysis states, both pilots were likely to be affected by fatigue that could be considered as an indirect cause of their errors.
The National Transportation Safety Board in its report clearly defined that the crash happened because of the pilots’ error. Actions of the captain and the first pilot were incompatible with their responsibilities as the company’s staff. The crew did not determine correctly the airplane’s speed and perform wrong actions.
There were no any claims to the airplane’s condition and its manufacturer.
The crash has a considerable negative impact on the Colgan Air Company. Of course, there were some crashes of the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 before, but it was the first one that led to death of passengers and even a person aground. The organization developed and implemented various procedures for responding to the catastrophe and eliminating similar events in the future.
Colgan Air provides additional remedial trainings for pilots which have unsatisfactory checklists in order to improve their skills. If the pilot does not have satisfactory checklist after these additional trainings, he can be terminated. The company also provided special stall training and winter operations training to improve crew actions during the situations similar to the Colgan Air Flight 3407, 2009 accident. What is more, the airline paid attention to increasing of the rest time of crew members and established ample rest and extended rest time between duty days (Crook, 2009).
The investigation of the accident determines considerable problems and fails in checking procedures of pilots, especially in hiring, training and some challenges of fatigue of the crew. On respond to these investigations, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a “Call to Action” in order to improve them. This issue had the aim to make the existing practice more efficient and eliminate causes that have led to catastrophe of Colgan Air Flight 3407, 2009.
New flight duties and rest rules were developed to improve the flight practice and provide more rest hours to pilots. The Administration performed the inspection of 85 air carriers and observed flight crewmember management and training in these companies. Fifteen air carriers partly comply with existing requirements and nine air carriers have considerable problems in training procedures. The Administration also negotiated with directors and head managers of air carrier and insisted on implementation of safety alert operations (SAFO) 0615 for improvement of training. Commercial airlines were obliged to track training procedures. Also, air companies implemented a more thorough check system for pilot records. The Administration either implemented various measures to increase using of the flight simulators during the pilot’s education to increase their qualification and ability to respond on various unusual situations (Federal Aviation Administration, 2010).
All above-mentioned improvements will lead to increasing the expenses of flight industry on about $70 million. However, these activities will improve the safety of crewmembers, passengers, and people aground.
Pilot Errors and Their Effect on Future Airlines’ Performance
According to the statistics, pilot errors cause about 70 % of all commercial airplane accidents, and about 25 % of these are caused by the aerodynamic stall. Modern technological developments try to reduce pilot errors and present various alarms. Additionally, international and national organizations together with airplane companies establish requirements and regulations, which are obligatory, in order to decrease possibility of happening the pilot errors. However, not all situations could be predicted.
Criminalization of the pilot in the Colgan Air Flight 3407, 2009 accident paid additional attention to the Loss Control In-Flight situation that lead to the airplane crash. Crew members just performed wrong actions mainly based on the lack of their experience, training and education, including training in winter and in the aerodynamic stall conditions. Criminalization of the pilot resulted into filling of these gaps and stricter control on training procedures of other pilots to improve the safety of flying.
Airplane industry made conclusions from the Colgan Air Flight 3407, 2009 accident. As the official report of the National Transportation Safety Board claims, the main cause of accident was the pilot’s error. The Federal Aviation Administration determines fields that have to be improved and develops methodologies of their improvement. These actions are aimed at decreasing the possibility of the pilot error in the future by increased requirements of airplane companies to quality education and hiring of pilots.
In this particular case, criminalization of the pilot did not just state whether the person is guilty or not. The process of criminalization investigates the reasons of the Colgan Air Flight 3407, 2009 accident and leads to development of various procedures to eliminate repetition of this catastrophe.
During the investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board not just criminalized the pilot: it determined definite challenges for Colgan Air Company. On respond to this report, the airline developed and implemented various procedures described above in order to prevent future pilot errors caused by inappropriate education and qualification of crew members.
Pilot error on the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 leads to implementation of stricter procedures in the particular organization – Colgan Air – as well as all airline companies of the USA.
This case shows the necessity of continuous improvement of training, education and hiring procedures of crew members and constant control of these processes. Also, the investigation determines that the captain failed to check riders in his records. Thus, the existing procedure determines inappropriate qualification of the captain. The company did not pay much attention to such a problem. The Federal Aviation Administration insisted on strengthening the company’s control on the crew members’ checking the riders. Moreover, implementation of the additional education, especially simulation practice, is needed that will train crew members’ skills in situations similar to the real one, such as de-icing, strong wind, fog, etc.
What is more, the National Transportation Safety Board pays much attention to possible fatigue of both pilots. Fatigue challenges already existed in the air practice. However, previously, air companies and national agencies did not take into account the increased tiredness of the crew members and possible mistakes, which can occur because of their weariness. Of course, fatigue can not be considered as the main factor of the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 crash. Besides, this factor can not discharge responsibility from the captain and the first pilot or even lead to withdrawal of their criminalization. Fatigue can be viewed as one of the causes of the pilots’ errors. Colgan Air responded to this problem and improved pilot’s flight schedule in order to reduce their fatigue. Consequently, errors of pilots and their further criminalization (analyzing of these errors and determining factors, which lead to these errors) of the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 results to development and implementation various procedures within both Colgan Air and other representatives of the industry for increasing the safety of the flights.
Discussion and Conclusion
The Colgan Air Flight 3407, 2009 accident happened neither because of bad weather conditions (fog, wind or ice-cover), failure or unwillingness of the Colan Air to notice the failed checking the riders by the captain, or medicine reducing blood pressure found in captain’s specimens, or fatigue of the crew members. This particular accident was caused by the errors of both the captain and the first pilot. The other factors were just additional causes. The captain and the pilot were correctly criminalized. However, they can not be punished for 50 deaths and caused destructions since these people are dead.
Of course, Colgan Air is guilty in the accident because inappropriate procedures of hiring, training, education, including education in winter and in terms of aerodynamic stall conditions, of crew members, hard pilots’ schedule that has led to their fatigue, and monitoring of checking the riders.
The main current task is to perform the accurate analysis of the crash of the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 and develop and put into practice effective measures for creating better aforementioned training and working conditions for current and future pilots for preventing similar catastrophes in the future. These tasks were effectively and efficiently performed by the Federal Aviation Administration, Colgan Air Company and almost all other airlines in the USA.