Lawyers for Colgan Victims Claim to Hold “Smoking Gun”

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Colgan Q400
Marvin Renslow captained a Colgan Air Bombardier Q400 that crashed on approach to Buffalo, N.Y., on Feb. 12, 2009. (Photo: Bombardier)
October 26, 2011, 4:09 PM

The chief pilot of Colgan Air had expressed reservations about the qualifications of the captain of the Bombardier Q400 that crashed on approach to Buffalo, N.Y., less than six months prior to the Feb. 12, 2009 accident, according to internal e-mail records released by the law firm representing seven families of the victims.

The e-mails, exchanged on August 26 and 27, 2008, show that chief pilot Bill Honan had originally removed Capt. Marvin Renslow from the airline’s list to upgrade from the Saab 340 to the Q400 due to concerns about his proficiency. Renslow, in fact, had failed three check rides before the start of his employment at Colgan Air in 2005, although he mentioned only one on his job application, and failed two more with Colgan.

“[Renslow] is already off the list,” Honan wrote on August 27 in response to an opinion expressed by Colgan vice president of operations Harry Mitchel that “Anyone who does not meet the [minimums] and had problems training before is not ready to take the Q…”

Honan apparently required Renslow to pass another proficiency training check on the Saab before allowing him to enter the Q400 transition class. Renslow entered the class in October 2008 and passed.

“The e-mails are significant for two reasons,” Hugh Russ, a partner in the Hodgson Russ law firm, told AIN.  “First, the e-mails, which are dated just months before the crash, prove that the highest levels of Colgan management recognized that the pilot was not qualified to fly the plane and yet promoted him despite this knowledge. Second, and more generally, the e-mails prove that Colgan, as part of its regular business practices, routinely sacrificed safety for profits.”

Colgan, meanwhile, categorically disputes allegations that the company withheld the information contained in the e-mails from the NTSB. “While this specific email exchange was not included in the NTSB investigation, the information it references, including Renslow’s earlier failed Saab 340 upgrade check in 2007, was in fact shared with NTSB investigators prior to and during testimony,” Colgan said in a statement sent to AIN. “Additionally, the NTSB was aware of the additional proficiency check as his training record was part of the NTSB evidence and that record clearly shows the additional check. To suggest otherwise is patently false and represents a clear attempt by plaintiffs’ attorneys to try their cases against the company in the media.”

Colgan insists that the e-mail exchange refers to a failed check ride that happened a year earlier, during Renslow’s first attempt to upgrade from a first officer to captain in the Saab 340. Renslow underwent additional training before receiving his captain’s type rating from an FAA-designated examiner. As a captain, according to Colgan, he completed three successful “checking events.”

“[Renslow] was qualified to begin his transition training into the Q400 aircraft, but the email exchange shows Colgan’s chief pilot required Renslow to pass his next scheduled check flight before being allowed to begin transition training into the Q400,” said Colgan. “Renslow then successfully completed Colgan’s FAA-approved Q400 training program, was issued a Q400 type rating by an FAA-designated examiner, and successfully completed transition operating experience in the Q400 with a Colgan Q400 check airman, all without any training deficiencies or problems noted.”

 

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WF
on October 27, 2011 - 11:13am

The statement at the end of the article explains it all...The pilot passed the required training and was authorized to operate the aircraft. Period. The argument otherwise would be similar to a double jeopardy situation where a deficiency was identified, corrected, rechecked and passed but subsequently reversed because back to the original problem as if the remedial training/correction never happenned. Problems would never be identified and fixed if we operating in such a draconian environment that no matter what you did to correct your errors you would never be able to overcome past difficulties. I am speaking in generalities and not unilaterally applying this logic to the colgan accident, I am simply stating that this sort of monday quarterbacking is pointless.

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Sue Chuck
on October 27, 2011 - 1:36pm

Bottom line,
1.) They KNOWINGLY withheld e mal transmittals.
2.) Those transmittals referenced his superiors stating that it is NOT
reccommended that they put him in THAT plane.
3.) That is the plane that crashed, killing 50 people.

That seems serious

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Larry Walters
on October 27, 2011 - 4:30pm

Everyone wants a cheap ticket. You get what you pay for. Everyone at Colgan except for the kids of Senator Colgan who still work there could care less about the company. Regional airlines are pinched in the middle of employees who have no experience and can't wait to leave and go to a major airline where they could actually make a living. I asked my manager if he had a 401K and he said, "No, I had Frosted Flakes this morning". If you want to get the same type of training and commitment to the company like the major airlines, then the major airlines who bid out the contracts to fill in the holes in their system to accommodate customers at small airports will have to pay more, so the regional employer can pay more and train more effectively.

Deregulation is a horrible thing and safety is always economically second. You can put a price on a human life, they do it every day, it's about 179.00 round trip from ATL to LGA.

Buy a plane, learn to fly and cart your own butt around the country. You can carry a loaded pistol, a fifth of Jack (can't drink it), and a machete on every flight and you decide how safe you really want to make it.

ATP, A&P, MEI

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Harold Coghlan
on November 11, 2011 - 12:27am

I have been a Line Pilot, Instructor, FAA Check Airman and Manager/Director at various FAR 135 regional and FAR 121 Large Airlines, and I can honestly say I agree that smaller Regional Airlines don't pay their personnel nearly enough, and don't spend as much in pilot training as the larger 121 airlines, but neither of those are acceptable reasons to accept sub-standard pilot performance. I have passed many a pilot applicant, but only when they met the required standards. When pilots did not meet standards, or when their basic pilot safety or judgement was in doubt (as in, "would I put my family on the back of this pilot's aircraft"), then I had no problem failing said pilot.
It appears that this pilot may have made serious errors during his training leading up to his promotion to Captain in the Q400. It is sad that no one stopped this accident from happening long before the flight took off, as in not promoting someone that perhaps was not ready to fly as Captain in this newer plane. most accidents are a series of chain links connected, and breaking any one of those links normally stops the accident from happening. Too bad the accident chain of events appears to have stayed "unbroken". That is what Check Airmen and Managers get paid to do, make those hard calls, even if they are unpopular.

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Jim
on November 11, 2011 - 7:42am

Where I think the investigation is lacking is with the FAA Flight Inspector and his / her relationship with the Colgan's. Colgan has been in operation for a very long time and has had numerous fatal incidents to their record. There is a good old boy relationship that exists in Northern Virginia. Look beyond the obvious.

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