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Before takeoff, co-pilot in Buffalo crash told pilot she was sick

WASHINGTON — The co-pilot in February's airline crash in upstate New York complained to the flight's captain that she felt ill and would have skipped the flight but didn't want to pay for a hotel room, according to a new cockpit voice recorder transcript released Monday.

The extended transcript, released by the National Transportation Safety Board, shows that pilot Marvin Renslow, 47, of Lutz commiserated with co-pilot Rebecca Shaw, 24, but didn't suggest that she pull out of the flight.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations say pilots should not fly if they feel sick. The captain is responsible for overseeing the crew.

The two conversed while Continental Connection Flight 3407 sat on the ground waiting for clearance to take off from Newark Liberty International Airport.

Shaw said that if she had felt as sick the day before when she was at home near Seattle, she wouldn't have commuted to Newark, N.J., to make the flight.

"I'm ready to be in the hotel room," Shaw told Renslow after one of several sniffle sounds noted on the transcript. "This is one of those times that if I felt like this when I was at home, there's no way I would have come all the way out here. But now that I'm out here."

"You might as well," Renslow responded.

"I mean if I call in sick now, I've got to put myself in a hotel room until I feel better," said Shaw, who also complained about her low salary. "We'll see how … it feels flying. If the pressure's just too much I, you know, I could always call in tomorrow. At least I'm in a hotel on the company's buck, but we'll see. I'm pretty tough."

Shaw also complained about poor treatment by Colgan Air Inc. of Manassas, Va., which operated the flight for Continental Airlines. She said she had earned only $15,800 the previous year and that the airline was refusing to give her $200 in back pay she felt she was owed.

Flight 3407 crashed on Feb. 12 as the twin-engine turboprop began preparations for landing in Buffalo, killing all 49 people aboard and a man in a house below. Testimony at an NTSB hearing in May showed that Renslow and Shaw made critical errors leading up to the crash.

Shaw had commuted the night before the crash from Seattle to Newark to make the flight to Buffalo. Renslow, who was in the middle of a series of flights, also had commuted to Newark.

It's not clear where either pilot had slept the night before the crash or how long each had slept, but it appeared from testimony that they might have tried to nap in a crew lounge at the airport. A fatigue expert testified that the pilots' judgment was probably impaired by fatigue.

A Colgan spokesman said in a statement that the airline doesn't condone pilots' flying when they are sick or fatigued.

Before takeoff, co-pilot in Buffalo crash told pilot she was sick 07/27/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 4:51pm]
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