3407 Pilot Error Suspected: WSJ Report

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Investigators studying last week's fatal crash of a Continental Connection Dash 8 Q400 in Buffalo, N.Y., now have found evidence that pilot inputs to the controls may have contributed to the airplane's stall, The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing sources close to the investigation. The flight data recorders show that the flight was routine until roughly a minute before impact, when the crew lowered the landing gear and extended the flaps, according to the WSJ sources. Almost immediately, the airspeed bled off and the stick-shaker activated, followed by a stick-pusher that automatically lowered the nose. It appears the captain pulled back on the stick with enough force to overpower the pusher and added power, causing a 31-degree pitch-up. The wings immediately stalled, and the airplane whipped to the left, then entered a steep right turn. The pilots continued to fight with the controls, and they were starting to recover when they "ran out of altitude," according to the WSJ source. NTSB member Steven Chealander, speaking to The New York Times earlier this week, urged "caution about jumping to conclusions that it might be an icing incident."

Fifty people were killed in the fiery crash, including one person on the ground. The NTSB investigation is continuing and no probable cause has been determined.