Pilot Qualifications Questioned

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Aviation safety consultants Wyvern Standard Ltd. recently performed a safety audit on the plane's operator, Air Castle Corp., and reported after the crash that pilot Polanco-Espiallat did not have the 75 hours in the previous 90 days, or the 300 hours in the previous year, that Air Castle considers minimum for its pilot in command. But the lawyer for Polanco-Espiallat's family said the pilot performed all necessary preflight procedures, including the icing check, and claimed the airplane was to blame for the crash. "It is absolutely clear that the manufacturer of this aircraft bears substantial, if not complete, responsibility for this crash," family lawyer Brian Alexander told the Denver Post. Amid the finger-pointing and legal wars emerges a story of a young man's heroism. Charlie Ebersol, then a 21-year-old Notre Dame student, escaped the wreckage only to discover the rest of his family didn't. He ignored warnings of others and (with a broken back, broken hand and a ruptured eye) ran back into the plane, spotted a tuft of his father's white hair and yanked him from under the wreckage of the galley, which had collapsed on top of him. After helping his father to safety, the young man returned to the wreckage for his 14-year-old brother Teddy, whose body was only later found underneath the plane. Flight attendant Warren Richardson III also died. Charlie Ebersol recalled the horror to a national television audience when his family appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show last week. "It is one of those moments," he told Winfrey. "They say it lasted 15 seconds -- it was hours."