The probable cause of the Colgan Air crash that killed 50 people near Buffalo, N.Y., a year ago was the captain’s inappropriate response, characterized as “startle and confusion,” after the stick shaker was activated, pulling back when he should have pushed forward, the NTSB reported in a hearing on Tuesday. Contributing factors included the crew’s failure to monitor airspeed and their violation of the sterile-cockpit rule. In the daylong hearing, which ran past 7 p.m., the board split over the issue of whether or not fatigue was a contributing factor in the accident. Board chairman Deborah Hersman argued that several factors, including the crew’s sleep deficits and the time of day the accident took place, indicated that fatigue was present, and should be counted as a contributing factor to the crew’s performance. But the view of board member Robert Sumwalt prevailed — he said just because the crew was fatigued, that doesn’t mean it was a factor in their performance.
Documents filed prior to the hearing also showed that the first officer sent two texts from the cockpit prior to takeoff, according to the Buffalo News. One text was sent at 7:58 p.m., prior to taxi, and the second was at 9:13 p.m., just five minutes before takeoff. The board issued more than 20 recommendations to the FAA for changes that should be made to prevent similar accidents. Hersman, however, told reporters that the FAA fails to act. “It’s the same thing over and over again,” she said. “[Our recommendations] have not been heeded by the FAA.” The presentations from the meeting are posted online, as well as the complete docket of documents. The NTSB animation of the final moments of the flight was posted several months ago. The full probable-cause report will be posted on the NTSB Web site soon. On Feb. 12, the anniversary of the crash, friends and relatives of the victims of the crash are planning to walk the final miles of the uncompleted Colgan flight, to protest what they say was a preventable tragedy, according to NBC New York.