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Sun, Feb 15, 2009

NTSB Reveals New Details On Investigation Of CO 3407 Downing

Says Plane Came Down Flat, Facing Northeast

National Transportation Safety Board spokesman Steve Chealander held a news conference at 4 pm Saturday, releasing more details surrounding Thursday evening's crash of Continental Connection flight 3407 into a Clarence Center, NY home while on approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport.

According to reports from the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and the Associated Press, spokesman Chealander revealed new information Saturday gleaned from the NTSB's initial investigation:

  • Evidence suggests the plane did not dive nose-first into the home in Clarence nose-first as was first believed, but fell in a horizontal attitude. The airplane impacted the ground flat, facing in the opposite direction of the runway at Buffalo Niagara International Airport that it was supposed to be approaching. It is "fair to say" that there was not a lot of forward motion of the aircraft when it crashed because it hit only one house, Chealander said. While the nature of the impact suggests a flat spin,"All we know is that the airplane hit flat," he added.
  • Both engines of the Bombardier turboprop plane were found and it appears both were working normally.
  • The cockpit and both wings also were recovered.
  • Information from the flight data recorder indicates the stick shaker and stick pusher had activated, though there is no evidence yet that the aircraft did in fact stall. He said the systems activated about 30 seconds before the crash, about the same time as the pitching up and down and rolling side to side that had been reported earlier.
  • The flight's delay at Newark Liberty International Airport, its starting point, was not due to any problems with the airplane but because of high winds in Newark.
  • He praised the more than 150 people working at the scene, particularly volunteer firefighters who have full-time jobs but still are helping. He called the crash scene an "excavation" because the plane fell on the house and the two are intermingled. Workers need to shore up the basement to make recovery safe for workers.
  • Some victims' bodies have already been removed, but it will take three to four days to get all of them. The goal is to complete this by Wednesday, when a snowstorm is forecast.
  • The tail is intact, but little of the rest of the aircraft is. The NTSB will remove all pieces of the wreckage and take it to a yet-unnamed site.

Much of the focus of the investigation is on icing on the wings and elsewhere on the plane. However, "we're not saying, again, that ice caused this accident," Chealander said. Data from the FDR suggests the sophisticated de-icing equipment was functioning, and the tail was de-iced. He also said the crew did not discuss any failure of the deicing equipment, according to the cockpit voice recorder, and issued no mayday.

A team will start working on analysis of the cockpit voice recorder and the flight data recorder in Washington, DC at 9 am Sunday.

The NTSB has been working "for several years" to put more regulations in place to improve deicing, Chealander said. "We don't like the progress that's taken place right now. It's something that requires constant focus."

FMI: www.ntsb.gov

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