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A federal safety inspector assigned to the airline whose plane crashed near Buffalo last February, killing 50 people, warned of safety problems at the carrier a year earlier.
A lawyer for Federal Aviation Administration inspector Christopher Monteleon said he reported issues with the flight-testing program at Colgan Air for its newly acquired Bombardier Dash 8-Q400s in January 2008.
That's the type of plane that crashed
FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown said his complaints about safety violations were investigated by a special FAA team and, "The bottom line was they didn't find any major regulatory issues."
Inspector criticized Colgan pilots a year before Flight 3407 crash
Upon hearing Monteleon’s story, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N. Y.,was outraged.
“This seems to be a classic whistle-blower case where a dedicated public servant’s actions might have saved 50 lives,” Schumer said. “There must be an immediate investigation to see if his allegations were true, and if they are, there must be immediate action on the part of the FAA to reform their procedures.”
NTSB scrutinizes pilots in Colgan Q400 crash probe
...The hearings revealed that the captain had accumulated four FAA certificate disapprovals, three before his hiring at the airline in 2005, including disapprovals for his pilot instrument, commercial pilot initial and his commercial multi-engine rating. He also failed his first evaluation at Colgan for his ATP certificate. The first officer had received one FAA disapproval for her initial flight instructor certificate before she joined Colgan in January last year.
The captain did not mention two of his failed tests on his employment application, according to last month’s testimony. Colgan vice president of administration Mary Finnigan said that if the company knew that he had withheld the information, “he would have been immediately dismissed. That would have been falsifying documentation and it’s not tolerated.”
Finnigan explained that the company follows the FAA’s Pilot Records Improvement Act, which in 1996 set standards for airlines’ background checks of applicants, including a prohibition against tracking records dating back more than five years. “Are we looking at ways to find out if a pilot falsifies something on his application? Absolutely,” said Finnigan. “However, we would welcome the help of the Board in order to do that.”
Countering some of the reservations expressed about the level of experience and competence of the pilots during the three-day hearing, Colgan vice president of flight operations Harry Mitchel noted that the captain, “from his Q400 training going forward, had 16 months of a very fine track record with successful completion of six training and checking events.”
...Here is an outside of the box line of questioning. How about foul play. Two prominent activists were on the plane that crashed in Buffalo and 9/11 widow Beverly Eckert, a well know 9/11 activist and founder of Voices of September 11th, had just met days prior with President Obama about the 9/11 investigation and was on her way to Buffalo for a celebration in honor of what would have been her husband’s 58th birthday who died in the 9/11 attacks. There has even been some speculation that she had new evidence that she planned to present to Eric Holder in regards to the 9/11 Commission investigation. Some even go so far as to suggest that this is a shot across the bow at President Obama by the military industrial complex to back off on any number of possible investigations....
Colgan Crash Hearings: Should Cockpit Recorders Be Used To Check Up On Pilots?
...In written testimony, Christopher Monteleon, a Federal Aviation Administration safety inspector once assigned to the airline, said he had been struck by how frequently Colgan pilots violated safety rules and engaged in idle chatter in the cockpit.
“At Colgan, even with the FAA aboard,” pilots broke rules and engaged in conversations, he said. Describing the problem as systemic, Mr. Monteleon said the chatter was a part of a company culture that seemingly encouraged employees to cut corners, or “wink and nod when the FAA is not there.”...
Over a year ago, Colgan Air acquired the Dash 8 plane, the same model that crashed in Clarence Center, and trained its pilots on it.
FAA inspector Chris Monteleon was assigned to monitor Colgan before the airline was given the okay to fly passengers on the plane.
Monteleon was in the cockpit with Colgan pilots on training flights.
He reported to both Colgan and the FAA that there were significant problems with Colgan's training manual, including whether it adequately instructed pilots about how to deal with a stall.
Monteleon also had concerns about pilot training on the Dash 8.
"His view was that Colgan was absolutely deficient in its manual and its training of pilots, and as a result, sloppy practices took place that compromised the safety of passengers," said Monteleon's attorney Debra Katz.
...Watch the report from Fox 5's Ti-Hua Chang (video, left).
Five years before that crash, the federal inspector assigned to Colgan air warned of problems with the same type of plane as the one involved in the crash. According to a lawsuit he's filed, Inspector Christopher Montelion warned that even the very best pilots, had trouble landing the plane.
A Federal Aviation adminstration spokesman has said a panel reviewed inspector Montelion's warnings and disagreed with them...
FAA aided Colgan’s scheduling
WASHINGTON — After federal flight inspector Christopher J. Monteleon reported that pilots at Colgan Air were not ready to safely fly the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, his bosses transferred him, in part “to immediately respond to the operator’s scheduling needs,” a Federal Aviation Administration official said in a memo obtained Friday by The Buffalo News.
After the transfer, the FAA approved Colgan to begin flying the Q400 on schedule — and less than a year later, on Feb. 12, a Colgan Q400 crashed in Clarence, killing 50 people.
Monteleon and other whistleblowers at the FAA said that experience was similar to what by-the-book inspectors at the agency have faced for years.
“The FAA has fostered an internal culture of non-accountability that continues to endanger the public,” the whistleblowers said in a letter to key senators.
Buffalo crash opens window into pilots' life
CLARENCE, N.Y. (AP) — Long-suffering pilots for commuter airlines say it's about time that Washington and passengers alike pay attention to the cockpit, where pilots may be exhausted, under-trained — and paid less than the bus or cab drivers who'd ferried their passengers to the airport.
"We have been calling for years trying to get the public to understand what their lifestyle is really like," said Capt. Paul Rice, first vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International, the nation's largest pilot's union, representing 54,000 flyers.
The plight of many commuter pilots was revealed at a recent federal hearing into the Feb. 12 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 near Buffalo that killed 50 people.
In nearly every serious regional airline accident during the past 10 years, at least one of the pilots had failed tests of his or her skills multiple times, according to an analysis of federal accident records.
In eight of the nine accidents during that time, which killed 137 people, pilots had a history of failing two or more "check rides," tests by federal or airline inspectors of pilots' ability to fly and respond to emergencies. In the lone case in which pilots didn't have multiple failures since becoming licensed, the co-pilot was fired after the non-fatal crash for falsifying his job application.
Pilots on major airlines and large cargo haulers had failed the tests more than once in only one of the 10 serious accidents in this country over the past 10 years, according to a USA TODAY review of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) accident reports.
Sen. Byron Dorgan’s Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security will hold hearings this week and next, reportedly focusing on the Feb. 12 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Buffalo that killed 50 people.
Federal Aviation Administration flight inspector Christopher J. Monteleon told National Transportation Safety Board investigators in March that egregious safety problems he observed at Colgan a year earlier were never addressed.
These hearings to be chaired by the North Dakota Democrat are a start, but the subcommittee should not stop there. The FAA is still ignoring legitimate safety concerns, while many whistleblowing pilots have been forced into retirement for offering similar warnings.
The Examiner has run several articles regarding the FAA’s so-called “glider exemption,” which allows gliders to fly in shared airspace without transponders, making them invisible to other pilots. However, despite nine deaths, numerous near collisions and two NTSB recommendations, the exemption remains on the books.
Congress this week holds a hearing into the safety of regional airlines. It comes after the February crash of a Continental connection flight near Buffalo that was operated by Colgan Air.