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Fri, Feb 13, 2009

Aero-News Alert: Colgan Air Q400 Impacts NY Home

Officials Confirm 49 Fatalities Onboard Aircraft, Reports Of One Victim On Ground 

ANN REALTIME UPDATE 02.13.09 0900 EST: The National Transportation Safety Board has dispatched a Go Team to investigate the crash of a turboprop airliner Thursday night near Buffalo, NY.

At approximately 10:15 pm (EST) Thursday, February 12, a Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 twin-engine turboprop airplane, registration N200WQ, operated by Colgan Air, Inc., as Continental Express flight 3407 from Newark, NJ, crashed into a house during an instrument approach to Buffalo International Airport.

Officials have now confirmed all aboard the aircraft -- 44 passengers, two pilots, two flight attendants, and one off-duty pilot, according to CNN -- lost their lives. There is a report of at least one ground fatality, with some reports stating that victim was inside the home struck by the plane.

NTSB Senior Air Safety Investigator Lorenda Ward will serve as Investigator-in-Charge of the team comprising approximately a dozen NTSB investigators. NTSB Member Steven Chealander is accompanying the team and will serve as principal spokesman for the on-scene investigation.

The Federal Aviation Administration, Colgan Air, and the Air Line Pilots Association will be parties to the NTSB's investigation.  The aircraft and engines were manufactured in Canada, and the Transportation Safety Board (TSB) of Canada has appointed an Accredited Representative who will arrive on scene today along with technical advisors from TSB, Bombardier Aerospace and Pratt & Whitney Canada.

One witness who was among the first to report the crash to 911 told CNN the plane came down "nose down, left wing low," and impacted a single home in a congested neighborhood. Homes on either side of the accident site suffered slight damage from the impact and resulting fire.

Early speculation in the media (and it should be stressed that's ALL it is at this point - speculation) has focused on the possibility the accident aircraft was carrying significant ice from the descent, and the effects ice could have on the flight characteristics of the aircraft as it changed configuration -- flaps down, landing gear extended, etc.

Previous Report 

0054 EST: Witness reports to national media indicate Continental Connection Flight 3407 impacted a home near Buffalo, NY in a near-vertical attitude Thursday night. At this time, firefighters are still working to contain the post-impact fire.

Local officials have confirmed one fatality on the ground. At this time, there remains no official confirmation of fatalities onboard the airliner... though it seems unlikely any of the 44 passengers and four crew would have survived what appears to have been an extremely violent impact.

ATC recordings streamed by liveatc.net (MP3 audio) reveal no apparent warning prior to the accident. The last recording sent from the accident flight was confirmation of the switch from approach to the tower frequency at BUF; the female pilot's tone of voice sounds rushed, though not necessarily any more so than is usual while on an ILS approach in busy airspace.

The approach controller attempted to contact 3407 several times after, with no success. He then advised ground crews, "We need to find out if anything is on the ground... all I can tell you is aircraft over the marker and we're not talking to him now."

The accident aircraft impacted in the vicinity of the KLUMP Initial Approach Fix, 4.4 nautical miles from the threshold of Runway 23 at BUF.

A Delta Air Lines flight in trail of the Colgan aircraft reported light icing from 6,500' through 3,500'. At least two other airliners in the vicinity also reported rime icing in the minutes following the accident.

The controller also asks other pilots in the area if they noticed any discrepancies with the localizer, after an MD88 reported fluctuations at around 1,500 feet. No error indications with the localizer were noted by the tower.

ANN will update this story with the latest information available at 0900 EST Friday.

Original Report

0001 EST (UPDATED THROUGHOUT THE HOUR): A Bombardier DHC-8-400 turboprop operated by Colgan Air as a Continental Connection flight crashed into a home in Clarence Center, NY Thursday night, as the aircraft approached Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF).

Continental Connection Flight 3407 inbound from Newark, NJ reportedly impacted the home at 10:20 pm local time Thursday. The FAA has confirmed 44 passengers and four crew were onboard the turboprop airliner.

Reports so far paint a grim picture as for survivors. The Buffalo News reports all persons onboard the airliner were lost in the crash, with one additional fatality on the ground... although that has not been confirmed by officials.

"We have multiple fatalities," said Dave Bissonette, emergency coordinator for the town of Clarence Center. CNN reports two persons on the ground were transported to an area hospital with minor injuries.

According to METAR information from BUF, light snow showers and 3 miles visibility were reported in the area at the time of the accident. Strong winds had delayed a number of flights throughout the northeastern US throughout the day Thursday.

CNN reports the accident site is approximately five miles from Runway 23 at BUF. Officials are unaware of any distress call from the airliner prior to the crash; the last radar return showed the aircraft at 5,300 feet MSL at 207 knots, according to tracking data relayed by FlightAware.com.

As ANN reported, Colgan launched Continental Connection service from Newark in early 2008, operating a fleet of fifteen 74-seat Bombardier Q400s. The regional airline announced a follow-on order for 15 more aircraft last month.

Colgan was purchased by Pinnacle Airlines Corp. in January 2007.

FMI: www.faa.gov, www.colganair.com

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