Thursday, February 19, 2009

Colgan Air addresses speculation about Flt. 3407 accident

Colgan Air logoColgan Air and its parent company, Pinnacle Airlines Corp., appear to be losing patience with all the speculation surrounding Colgan Air Flt. 3407, the Dash-8 Q400 that crashed last week near Buffalo. They are clearly annoyed that information made public by the NTSB has spawned so much theorizing and finger pointing by the media and the public at large, long before all of the facts about the accident are known.

Over the past two days, Pinnacle and its Colgan Air subsidiary have released a press statement and a FAQ Sheet (Frequently Asked Questions) in defense of the company, its crews, and its training program. Here is the main text of the press statement, issued yesterday:
Historically, NTSB investigations are confidential and involve a thorough determination of the facts before public statements are made. Colgan Air continues to cooperate in every respect with the NTSB as it conducts the investigation. As such, we will respect the integrity of the NTSB ongoing investigation by not commenting on specifics. However, we do feel compelled to comment on public speculation about potential causes of the accident.

Here are the facts about our operations. Colgan has instilled a systemic culture of safety throughout our organization that is rooted in significant investment in crew training, systems, leadership and equipment.

Our crew training programs meet or exceed the regulatory requirements for all major airlines. Our ground and air training is designed in coordination with the aircraft manufacturer, one of the most respected providers of aviation flight training and the Federal Aviation Administration utilizing state-of the-art training devices such as full-motion simulators, among others.

In addition, Colgan has committed significant financial resources to upgrade aircraft safety, efficiency and quality in recent years. The Q400 is a sophisticated, highly capable aircraft that is designed for cold-weather operations with a long, proven history of safe operations globally.

Captain Renslow had 3,379 total hours of flight experience and was Airline Transport Pilot rated, which is the highest level of certification available. That rating, combined with 172 hours of formal training on the Q400 aircraft, qualified him fully in accordance with all applicable Federal Aviation Regulations.

We continuously review our safety policies and training procedures as part of our everyday operations. In the wake of an accident, we are even more focused on ensuring our operations remain safe and have specifically reexamined our procedures for this aircraft. We have reinforced strict adherence to all of our flight operations policies, including flying during icing conditions.
Today the company issued a 3-page document - Frequently Asked Questions – Colgan Air Flight 3407. One item on that document clearly indicates the frustration of the airline's management in the face of massive media speculation about the cause of the accident:
If the process is supposed to be private until findings are determined, why am I seeing speculation about potential causes?
  • a. Historically, NTSB investigations are confidential and involve a thorough determination of the facts before public statements are made.
  • b. It’s important not to jump to conclusions, and instead focus on what is factual and released by the investigating team at the NTSB. Currently, the only absolute fact is that we do not know the cause of this accident.
Among other things, the FAQ describes Colgan Air's crew training methods at some length, with examples to illustrate. Also delineated in the FAQ are the qualifications, training, and number of flying hours of the two pilots who perished in the crash of Flight 3407. The FAQ even presents a justification for why Colgan Air flies the Q400.

The airline is in a tough position -- prohibited from commenting on specifics related to the accident itself while the investigation still is underway, yet catching flak from the media and the general public meanwhile. It's no wonder that Colgan Air feels compelled to do what it can to defend itself via these media releases.

Everyone wants to know what happened to cause the accident, yet few are patient enough to wait for all of the facts to emerge from the course of the investigation. Thus, every new tidbit of information revealed by the NTSB evokes a new round of speculation by the media and the huge cadre of armchair investigators who are all too ready to decide probable cause based on fragments of information.

Clearly this situation is vexing for the airline. And one can only imagine how rough all of this must be for the families of the crew and passengers who died in the accident.

RELATED: Click here to view all posts about Colgan Air Flt 3407 on Aircrew Buzz.