Colgan Grounds Wayward Pilots

 - October 1, 2011, 9:10 PM

Colgan Air grounded the pilots who landed a Saab 340B at the wrong Louisiana airport on September 7, pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Flying as Continental Connection Flight 3222 and bound for Lake Charles, La., from Houston, the crew mistakenly landed the 34-seat turboprop some nine miles west of Lake Charles, at Southland Field, outside Sulphur, La. The airline had to drive the 23 passengers on board the remaining nine miles to Lake Charles in limousines.

Southland Field lies on virtually the same latitude as Lake Charles, and the main runway at Lake Charles has nearly the same heading as Southland Field’s single runway.

At press time the FAA hadn’t finished its investigation into the matter, but it reported that at about 10:17 p.m. local time, an air traffic controller in the Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center cleared Flight 3222 for a visual approach to the airport in Lake Charles. After clearing the flight for approach, the controller instructed the pilots to switch their radio frequency to the common traffic advisory frequency for Lake Charles Airport.

As the Saab continued its approach, the controller noticed that the flight appeared to have turned toward the runway at Southland Field. The controller enlisted the help of another aircraft in the area to reach the crew of the Colgan flight. By the time that pilot made contact, the Colgan aircraft had already landed at Southland Field. 

Penalty Proposed

Separately, the FAA has proposed levying Colgan Air a fine of $1.892 million for allegedly allowing flight attendants to work a total of 172 revenue flights before they completed the required training in the use of the cabin fire extinguishing system aboard the Bombardier Q400 turboprop.

The 84 newly hired flight attendants worked flights between Nov. 3 and Nov. 9, 2009 after the FAA told Colgan the flight attendants had not completed the required training. 

The FAA inspected the carrier’s new-hire flight attendant training for the Q400 on Nov. 2, 2009. The FAA alleges that Colgan trained the new flight attendants with fire extinguishers used on the airline’s Saab 340s, which operate differently from those used on the Q400.

Colgan had 30 days from the receipt of the FAA’s enforcement letter to respond to the agency.

The alleged violations would have happened some nine months after Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed outside Buffalo, killing 49 on board and one person on the ground. Investigators laid the primary blame for the Feb. 12, 2009 crash on the captain for his failure to recover properly from an aerodynamic stall.