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Fatigue investigated in Buffalo air crash

A US National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the crash of Continental connecting flight 3407 in February 2009 has heard that the co-pilot was not adequately rested before commencing duty.

Investigators have cited fatigue as a likely contributor to the crash of the Dash 8 aircraft, operated by Colgan Air, which took place near Buffalo, New York, killing 50 people.

Co-pilot, Rebecca Shaw spent the previous night commuting from her Seattle home to her duty base at Newark International Airport in the jumpseat of two FedEx flights.

On February 11, Shaw woke between 09:00 and 10:00 PST. She left Seattle at around 8pm PST and flew to Memphis before flying to Newark where she arrived at approximately 06:30 EST.

Shaw, 24, had been living with her parents in Seattle and commuting to Newark for the 13 months she was employed by Colgan. Investigators have suggested that her low wages precluded her from living in the New York area.

It is claimed that Shaw often slept overnight on the crew room couch, despite this being against company policy.

Flight Captain, Marvin Renslow, had also commuted to Newark from his home near Tampa, Florida, prior to the flight. Login records from Colgan’s scheduling computer indicate that he accessed the system at 3 am and 7.30 am on the morning of the accident.

According to NTSB investigators, 93 of Colgan’s 137 Newark-based pilots commute to work by air. Colgan Air representatives have stated that it is the responsibility of crew to be fit for duty.

The crew were scheduled to report at 1 pm on February 12 but the first two flights of the day were cancelled due to high winds. Flight 3407 was readied for its scheduled 7.45 pm take-off time but did not receive clearance until 9:18 pm. The accident occurred at approximately 10:16pm.

Investigators have also pointed to shortfalls in Captain Renslow’s training as possibly contributing to the crash, which came after an aircraft stall. Renslow had not received hands-on training in the Dash 8’s stick pusher, a safety device activated when the craft stalls. He had, however, been trained in stick pusher operation for other aircraft.

sources: Associated Press, CNN, Seattle Times