In the past week or two the Colgar Air Flight 3407 accident has been brought up in a lot of my recent aviation conversations. These conversations seemed to have stemmed from a recent caste study that I had to do for my Aviation Safety class.
I really enjoy watching the National Geographic tv series “Airplane Crash Investigations” on youtube and because of this show I found a liking of aircraft crash investigations. It was really interesting taking a deeper look into the NTSB reports of this accident and seeing the causes and outcomes of it, and the effect that it had on the aviation industry. The result of this crash affected the future for most pilots in the US as new rules and regulations have been initiated. A direct result of the Colgan Air accident was the stated rule that pilots need a minimum of 1500 hours in order to work for a US regional airline. No longer could pilots fly for a regional airline with a minimum of 250 hours and a commercial pilot license. For pilots in training, like myself, that means more money is being spent to build those additional hours!
Colgan Air Flight 3407 was traveling from Newark, NJ to Buffalo airport when the Bambardier Dash-8 Q400 reportedly stalled in the sky on the approach into Buffalo and crashed into a house in Clarence Center, New York killing 50 people. It was frustrating to read the NTSB reports as this accident was preventable and was proven to be because of pilot error. Many factors contributed to the pilots entering a series of predicaments that lead to the stall. A level of professionalism was not maintained in the cockpit as both pilots were engaging in idle chatter during the critical phases of flight, clearly disregarding the “sterile cockpit rule.” This rule states that pilots should refrain from non-essential activities during critical phases of flight. Further investigations have also shown that both pilots were fatigued as they had to commute long distances in order to get to work. Complacency is another issue that arise. As both pilots have flown this route several times making procedures and operation of flight now a routine. As a result of this, the pilots may have become complacent expecting nothing to change during the course of flight. And because of the possibility of becoming complacent, pilot alertness may have been reduced. As a pilot, it is important to acknowledge and learn from the mistakes made by the pilots of Colgan Air flight 3407.
What can we learn from this accident?
- Always follow the rules and maintain a level of professionalism whenever entering the cockpit. Many distractions can occur by not paying attention to the flight task at hand.
- Evaluate yourself and determine if it’s safe to fly. If you are tired, ill or stressed, that should probably be an immediate indication that you are not in a good condition to fly. Safety first!
- Don’t become complacent! It is easy for pilots to become complacent especially when a task has been repeated many times in the past. For example, performing a cross country route and landing at an airport that you have done many times before. Remember always be alert and follow procedures and rules, emergencies can be unpredictable and they usually do not happen at the most convenient time and location. Procedures and rules are there for a reason!
Following these simple steps can create a much safer flying environment for both yourself and other around you! Together we can make aviation a safer environment for the world to enjoy!!