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Sun, May 17, 2009

NTSB Responds to Political Plea About CC3407 Investigation

The increasingly political issues surrounding a crash investigation continue unabated.... and in the case of the tragic Continental Connection 3407 accident, the political commenting and interference is reaching a fever pitch. While anti-aviation lawmakers like NY's Charles Schumer (D-New York) have all but concluded the causes of the crash and placed blame on some of this favorite scapegoats (and grabbed the obligatory headlines and soundbites), others are being slightly more circumspect, though still voicing concerns -- long before the NTSB can even hope to publish a Probable Cause.

US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) recently wrote the Acting Chairman of the NTSB, Mark Rosenker, to keep the deceased pilots from shouldering all the blame for what she suspects may be a systemic issue.

Gillibrand implored Rosenker to 'responsibly assess where the blame should truly lie. On behalf of the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy and all Americans who depend on safe air travel, I urge you not to turn the pilots of Flight 3407 into scapegoats.'

Gillibrand notes that, "Over the course of the last week, we have heard shocking testimony about the grave errors that were made by the pilots of Continental Flight 3407. I am outraged to learn that the horrible crash could have been prevented had mistakes not been made."

The Senator continues, "While it appears that the pilots of this aircraft committed grave errors, their conduct seems to be an indictment of the aviation system as a whole. These pilots are the product of an aviation system where training, salaries, and oversight are severely flawed. We all heard how the co-pilot only made $16,000 a year, which obviously does not even cover the cost of living for a Newark-based crew member. Crew members live so far away and are not given proper accommodations before their flights, leaving them exhausted and ill-equipped to do their job.

Furthermore, these pilots did not have enough training for typical winter conditions in the northeast. In addition, the witness from the human resources department could not answer simple questions about requirements and qualifications for pilots.

Failing to hold the system accountable would be a further injustice to these families and all consumers across the country. The Federal Airline Administration must accept some of the responsibility for the tragedy in Buffalo, or these systemic risks and failures will continue.

Justice must be served for the men and women who lost their lives in the horrible accident of Flight 3407, and that does not mean resting all the blame on the pilots.

These pilots made grave errors but were also a product of an industry that is not adequately training or caring for their workers."

NTSB/Rosenker Response

Dear Senator Gillibrand,

Thank you for your letter earlier this afternoon. We appreciate your thoughts and interest in our investigation. As you noted, we just concluded a three-day public hearing on the circumstances surrounding the tragic crash of Continental Connection flight 3407, operated by Colgan Airways, occurring on February 12, 2009. I can assure you, as I assured the many family members this week who attended the hearing, that the National Transportation Safety Board will consider every factor before rendering a probable cause of the accident. We pride ourselves in providing an objective comprehensive investigation of such transportation accidents.

We intend to complete our investigation in as timely a fashion as possible. As you know, our primary products are safety recommendations aimed at preventing similar accidents from occurring again. Such recommendations can be issued at any time during the course of an investigation.

I will be happy to keep you apprised of developments in this investigation, and will appreciate your supportive efforts as we strive to improve aviation safety in this country.

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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