Colgan Blames Pilots, ALPA Cites Training

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Colgan Air, in a 67-page statement (PDF) to the NTSB filed last week, blamed the two pilots for the fatal crash of a Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 turboprop near Buffalo, N.Y., in February. "The probable cause of the accident was the flight crew's loss of situational awareness and failure to follow Colgan Air training and procedures, which led to a loss of control of the aircraft," the company wrote. The Air Line Pilots Association, however, filed a statement (PDF) citing problems with Colgan's training and procedures, as well as issues with the aircraft. "Colgan's Internal Evaluation Program failed to identify errors in the Captain's records," according to ALPA's statement. The company flight manual was "incomplete and inaccurate," the crew resource management program was "ineffective and outdated," and the airline's approach-to-stall training "was not accomplished or checked in accordance with the Airline Transport Pilot Practical Test Standards," ALPA said.

Colgan's report notes that the pilots broke the "sterile cockpit" rule while on approach, which "may have distracted the crew from their duties and may have contributed to the cause of the accident." The report also says the pilots failed to plan their personal time properly, so the first officer had to commute overnight to report for duty, and the captain averaged less than six hours of overnight sleep during several days before the flight. Colgan said its system for checking pilot proficiency is "thorough and effective" and its training program is "robust," and the first officer's choice to commute was not influenced by her rate of pay ($26 per hour with a minimum 75 hours per month [PDF]). ALPA also said the FAA should do more to ensure that airline pilots are properly trained, and airlines should be required to "train first officers to the same standards ... as captains." Ratings that allow second-in-command privileges only should be eliminated, ALPA said. The NTSB investigation is continuing and its final report on the accident is expected early next year. The full statements from ALPA and the airline, as well as many other documents, can be found online in the NTSB docket.