BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - News 4 has obtained copies of e-mails that Flight 3407 attorneys call the "smoking gun" in their case against Colgan Air. The Colgan e-mails indicate the airline knew the pilot was not qualified for that cockpit.
In the months before the crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence, which claimed 50 lives, including a pregnant woman, Coglan Air was expanding its air routes and moving to bigger planes, according to attorneys for victims' families.
Attorney Hugh Russ said, "Coglan was struggling financially. Colgan was undertaking a new program with new planes, the Q-400 planes, 15 of them, and at the time Colgan was desperately looking for pilots to fly these planes."
Internal e-mails from Colgan Air's top management mention Renslow as a possible candidate to fly the Q-400.
One from Dot Chaplin reads, "You might want to check the training records. There is something in the back of my mind on Renslow."
Colgan's Chief Pilot Bill Honan responded, "Yes, you are correct Renslow had a problem upgrading."
Harry Michel, Colgan's Vice President of Operations then stated, "Anyone that does not meet the mins [minimum requirements] and had problems in training before Is not ready to tackle the Q."
Bill Honan added, "He is already off the list." And Harry Mitchel concluded the chain with, "Great - Thanks."
A month later, says attorneys, Renslow was flying the aircraft.
"These emails in our judgment, prove that Colgan sacrificed safety for profits," said Russ.
An attorney for Colgan Air said Capt. Renslow had passed the Q-400 flight test and would had to have passed in order TO fly the aircraft that day. He would not comment further.
Marilyn Kausner, whose 24-year-old daughter Ellie died in the crash, says this renews her heartache because she believes the crash was preventable.
"The airlines knew they had unqualified pilots. They put them in the air anyway. The consequences were deadly, and it's such a callousness toward human life," said Kausner.
In February of 2010, the National Transportation Safety Board released their findings on the cause of the crash. They listed the probable cause as follows:
The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the captain's inappropriate response to the activation of the stick shaker, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which the airplane did not recover. Contributing to the accident were (1) the flight crew's failure to monitor airspeed in relation to the rising position of the low-speed cue, (2) the flight crew's failure to adhere to sterile cockpit procedures, (3) the captain's failure to effectively manage the flight, and (4) Colgan Air's inadequate procedures for airspeed selection and management during approaches in icing conditions.
More documents and findings from the NTSB can be found here.
Colgan had been fighting the public release of the e-mails until Friday. Victims' families have said they wanted them released to help prevent this type of accident from ever happening again. Russ said they believe this is the "smoking gun."
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