Friday, February 13, 2009

Continental Connection Flight 3407 Crashes Outside Buffalo, 49 Dead

Continental Flight 3407 crash outside Buffalo NY. February 13, 20092. Photo AP.
Continental Flight 3407 crash outside Buffalo NY. February 13, 20092. Photo AP.

All 48 On Board Dead Plus 1 On Ground
No Warning To Controllers Before Crash

On final approach, commuter airplane Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed early this morning outside Buffalo roughly five miles from the airport. There was no unusual communication to ATC controllers prior to the crash.

ATC Recordings grabbed live at the time.

Listen for "Continental 3407" or "Continental Connection 3407" talking to ATC. It's a few minutes before you hear the pilot and a solid ten minutes or more before the plane falls off the channel and ATC starts trying to figure out what happened -- which happens FAST. All this while dealing with all of the other traffic on channel... as it isn't as if anyone knew an incident was about to occur.


"The whole sky was lit up orange," said Bob Dworak, who lives less than a mile from the crash site. "All the sudden, there was a big bang, and the house shook."

The 74-seat Q400 Bombardier aircraft was carrying 5,000 pounds of fuel and apparently exploded on impact, Erie County Executive Chris Collins said.

Firefighters got as close to the plane as they could, he said. "They were shouting out to see if there were any survivors on the plane. Truly a very heroic effort, but there were no survivors."

The twin-turboprop operated by Colgan Air was flying from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey to Buffalo Niagara International Airport in light snow, fog and 17 mph winds.

Prior to the crash, the voice of a female pilot on Flight 3407 could be heard communicating with air traffic controllers, according to a recording of the Buffalo air traffic control's radio messages shortly before the crash captured by the Web site Neither the controller nor the pilot shows any concern that anything is out of the ordinary as the airplane is asked to fly at 2,300 feet.

A minute later, the controller tries to contact the plane but hears no response. After a pause, he tries to contact the plane again.

Then the controller asks the pilot of a nearby Delta Air Lines plane to see whether he can see the Continental flight. The Delta pilot says no.

About three to four minutes after that, he tells an unidentified listener to contact authorities on the ground in the Clarence area.

"You need to find if anything is on the ground," the controller says. "All I can tell you is the aircraft is over the marker (landing beacon), and we're not talking to them now."

Later, he tells all aircraft monitoring the same frequency: "We did have a Dash 8 over the marker that didn't make the airport. He appears to be about five miles away from the airport."
I watched an Apache helicopter burn at a refueling station. It went up FAST.

AP reports 5,000 pounds of fuel exploded with the plane. Wouldn't be nothing left of nobody. Or anyone anywhere nearby.

It'll be months till we know. My guess -- icing. Listening to the ATC tape, pilots were reporting ice. Those little commuter jobbies, if you get a buildup of ice, you can get screwed really quick. Second guess, a localizer failure (guides you into the runway) or trouble with the plane's auto-land feature.

Problem with all this technology is if it fucks up on you, you are truly fucked. It can fly you right into the goddamn ground or aim you straight into another plane on the same jetway 41,000 feet in the air and you hit them head on as you've both got perfect GPS down to 10 foot accuracy well within the wingspan of both aircraft. So if your jets get programed to fly on the wrong routes, kiss your asses the frack goodbye. This actually happened down in South America about a year ago; took out one plane completely when the wing ripped off after the collusion...everyone on that plane died, duh. The second plane, a business jet survived, barely. The drivers got charged locally with criminal charges which is pure bullshit. Finally they got out of country. I don't remember their current status. VF did a wonderful piece on it a few months back.

My point is, we don't know what happened here. It could have been a short on the localizer flying them into the ground. Could have been a flame out with no time to deal. Could have been... we don't know. They came up short by five miles and everyone died.

Yes, the pilots on the commuter flights are well trained. They go into the box just as often as anyone else. They know what they're doing. There is a pilot and a first officer on each one of these aircraft, BOTH of whom are fully qualified to fly the plane under any conditions.

Given the choice between flying out of Buffalo or getting in an SUV and driving down to New York City through a storm, I pick flying. Massively safer.

Tat Tvam Asi.