Thursday, December 17, 2009

Experience matters in pilot qualifications

December 17, 2009

As anyone who has driven with a teenager knows, there is no more valuable teacher of driving skills than experience. Which is why I was so disturbed to read the comment of a Colgan Air executive speaking to a Wall Street Journal reporter earlier this month. Colgan, you remember was the regional airline handling Continental’s Flight 3047 into Buffalo, New York on February 12. The plane crashed into a neighborhood killing 49 people on board and one man on the ground. The National Transportation Safety Board has yet to issue a probable cause report on the accident.
The airline, in its submission last week to the NTSB, blames the pilots of Flight 3047, for losing situational awareness and failing to follow standard procedures.
With 3300 and 2200 hours respectively, Captain Marvin Renslow, and first officer Rebecca Shaw had more hours than many commuter pilots, some of whom start flying passengers on these smaller jets with as little as 300 hours.
“Flight hours aren't the best measure of skill,” a Colgan executive told Andy Pasztor. Pasztor’s article included the story of Charlie Preusser, a regional airline pilot who got his job with Colgan having just 383 hours in the cockpit.
I participated in the coverage of the Colgan Air crash for The New York Times. While reviewing the US accident history, I counted eleven crashes on regional airliners between 2000 and the Feb 12 accident in Buffalo. That’s more than one per year. Eight involved injuries or fatalities. The list below provides the dates, and aircraft tail numbers. This list seems to indicate a segment of commercial aviation that is not meeting standards the flying public expects and deserves.
List of regional airline accidents since 2000
  1. Colgan Air 2.12.09 Fatalities 50 N200WQ (Continental Connection)
  2. Pinnacle Airlines 11.13.08 Injuries no fatalities N8698A (Northwest Airlink)
  3. Shuttle America 2.18.07 No fatalities N862RW (Delta Connection)
  4. Comair 8.27.06 Fatalities 49 N431CA(Delta Connection)
  5. Flying Boat Inc. 12.19.05 Fatalities 20 N2969 (Chalk's Ocean Airways)
  6. Executive Airlines 5.9.04 No fatalities N438AT (American Eagle)
  7. Corporate Airlines 10.19.2004 Fatalities 13 N875JX (American Connection)
  8. Pinnacle Airlines 10.14.04 Fatalities 2 N8396A (Northwest Airlink)
  9. Air Midwest Airlines 1.8.03 Fatalities 21 N233YV (USAirways Express)
  10. Colgan Air 8.26.03 Fatalities 2 N240CJ (Ferry flight)
  11. Peninsula Airways 10.10.01 Fatalities 9 N9530F

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