So from day one I was asking reporters to get the crew’s duty times for the prior 72 hours. When they were not readily available, I knew there was a reason. I also commented at the outset that checking out a relatively inexperienced and mediocre pilot as Captain
- on an aircraft
- in an area [high density Northeast]
- and in weather [winter]
The recent NTSB hearings on Colgan 3407 have now vindicated my position. Here’s an unsolicited note Captain Bud wrote me right after the hearings.
It looks like the NTSB is now 4 months behind you, and coming to the same conclusions you reached watching the burning wreckage. It will be another 8 months before they verify your findings with their report. Actually, they are using your report to figure the thing out. All they really have to do is just take your blog and, and put in a few more words and governmentese and they are done. They could have saved a ton of money and will not reach any different conclusions. You better copywrite it and then sue them for plagiarism. Congratulations again on a job well done.............
Thank you, Bud.
But now – determining what happened is not enough. We must also understand why it happened. Yes – Colgan 3407’s airspeed was too low – but why: Why did it get that low? And why did two current and qualified pilots seemingly forget what all pilots learn in their earliest days of flight training?
Or did they...........?
The NTSB's final report will not be issued until a year or more after the crash. Can we afford to wait until then to understand this crash and its causes? What if the NTSB doesn’t consider all available evidence? And once they conclude what they do, what if it’s too late to proffer a differing point of view? Is the NTSB investigation truly objective? Could there be a political angle to their report? What group is not represented on the NTSB panels which should be? And what if the NTSB's conclusions, once formalized and adopted, foreclose legal strategies and positions which could benefit the victims and those who survived them?
Moreover, what if some of the basic assumptions about this accident are wrong?
["But they’re. common sense!" I can hear you say. Right – and common sense tells us the world is flat! And to pull back if our aircraft is sinking! We know learning to fly involves learning to override common sense at times – and stall recovery requires pointing the nose at the ground when we least want to!]
So in the next several weeks, I'll be questioning all these "common sense" assumptions that the NTSB and its blind followers [including most reporters] are making. And as usual, I'll be questioning the most fondly held assumptions about the crew.
Yes, I always seem to be arguing the other side. My first post below questioned the notion that Captain Sullivan [US Airways 1549] was quite as perfect as portrayed. Yes, his splash-landing came out well – but what about all that went before it? [Read my first post at the bottom for more.]
And now I'm going to question if the Colgan 3407 crew could have been quite as bad as portrayed.
Yes... they were fatigued and inexperienced, but were they suicidal or that incompetent? Ask anyone who flies – or has ever ridden a bicycle. We all know – speed is life! I cannot imagine any pilot – let alone an ATP [Airline Transport Pilot] and /or a CFI [Certified Flight Instructor] forgetting that lesson – or ignoring it – without a damn good reason! I cannot imagine an ATP [Captain Renslow] pulling back on the yoke without a good reason. And I cannot imagine a CFI [F/O Shaw] retracting initial flaps in a stall situation – especially without first obtaining the concurrence of the Captain and /or PF [pilot flying].
Initial flaps give mostly lift – final flaps mostly drag. As a CFI, Becky knew that and must have demo-ed and taught it hundreds of times – as did I [Been there, done that!]. So again, she must have had a good reason!
That’s why proper analysis of this accident must question the cherished notion that these 2 pilots suddenly became totally incompetent and suicidal. We’ll have to find the reasons they did what they did.
And if we find the crew, though fatigued and inexperienced, was neither suicidal nor incompetent?
Then we’ll have to ask "what if?"
- What if the crew’s actions were not incorrect for the true situation they were in – or at least thought they were in?
- What if the aircraft, though slow, was not stalled?
- What if in fact, none of the flight data we have arose from the crew’s control inputs? Could this crash have occurred without the crew’s even touching the controls?
- What if seemingly trivial items have been overlooked which are not trivial at all? For example, no one seems to have noted certain items on the CVR and ATC transcripts which could have contributed significantly to this crash and in the past caused other crashes which were seemingly inexplicable at the time
- What if there are other accidents eerily similar to this one which we can learn from?
- What if this aircraft type had documented design deficiencies, performance anomalies, and / or uncorrected malfunctions which could have caused of the accident?
- And what if there were other weather factors at play besides icing?
I believe there are answers to all these "what ifs" – and in the weeks ahead I'll be discussing them in detail.
No -- I do not have the technical resources of the NTSB and other agencies. But like "Deep Throat" of Watergate scandal fame [hence my "nom de plume" – Captain DT], I know where to look and can guide others through the often overwhelming world of aviation. My personal qualifications and experience to perform this task include:
- over 5,000 hours as a professional pilot
- Airline Transport Pilot’s license with all Flight and Ground Instructor ratings
- flying in both regional and major airline operations, including flying the Boeing 727 and the DHC-6 – predecessor to the "Dash 8-400" [a.k.a. the Q400] and the aircraft NASA used in their in-flight icing research and videos.
- MBA, Harvard, and MA, Psychology
- senior management positions at United Airlines, as well as at one of the early post-deregulation carriers.
- consulting to top management at Eastern, Evergreen, and Altair Airlines
- expertise in Total Quality Management [including training under and assisting W. Edwards Deming at his Senior Management seminars], statistical methods, problem solving, process improvement, Failure Mode & Effect Analysis methodology [FMEA], and quality systems auditing [including ISO 9000]
Hopefully, it’s obvious that I am not reluctant to go against current thinking and employ the time tested tools of logic, experience [been there, done that], expertise, statistical analysis, and information learned from past tragedies. Indeed, in this case there are a plethora of accidents and incidents eerily similar to this one.
And now – with the news of AF447 just in – I believe we have another crash surprisingly similar to the Colgan tragedy....
So stay tuned!