WASHINGTON — Pilot training and fatigue are expected to be the focus of an unusual public hearing today into safety issues raised by the February crash of an airliner near Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people.
The National Transportation Safety Board's investigation has found that Capt. Marvin Renslow of Lutz, the pilot of the twin-engine turboprop, didn't receive hands-on training on a critical safety system aboard the aircraft, the Associated Press reported, quoting sources close to the investigation.
Renslow also failed several test rides in aircraft simulators over his career, said the sources, who asked not to be named because the board hadn't released the results of its investigation.
Today's session is the board's first public hearing in more than five years in which all board members will be present, an indication of the depth of the board's concern about safety issues raised by the accident.
"These are some very serious issues we're going into in the next three days," said NTSB acting chairman Mark Rosenker.
The training by the airline — Colgan, based in Manassas, Va. — for the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 didn't include a demonstration or simulation of the stick-pusher system, the sources said. A stick-pusher automatically kicks in when a plane is about to stall, pointing the aircraft's nose down into a dive so it can pick up enough speed to allow the pilot to guide it to a recovery.
However, when Flight 3407's stick-pusher kicked in on approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport on Feb. 12, Renslow pulled back on the control column, apparently trying to bring the aircraft out of the sudden dive. Pushing forward to gain speed is the proper procedure.
Flight 3407 experienced an aerodynamic stall after the control column was pulled back. The plane then rolled over and dropped from the sky, landing on a house about 5 miles from the airport. All 49 people aboard and one man in the house were killed.
Renslow's training history was first reported Monday by the Wall Street Journal. The airline acknowledged in a statement Monday that a stick pusher demonstration wasn't part of Renslow's training.
Besides his inexperience with the stick pusher, Renslow had failed at least two flight simulator "check rides" administered by FAA while at Colgan and several other check rides earlier in his career, sources said.
Another issue is whether the flight's first officer, Rebecca Shaw, was too tired to fly but failed to tell Colgan, sources said. Shaw had been a passenger on a red eye flight the previous night.