Buffalo Crash Pilot's Skills Questioned

The wreckage of Continental flight 3407 lies amid smoke at the scene after crashing into a suburban Buffalo home and erupting into flames late on Feb. 12, 2009, killing all 48 people aboard and at least one person on the ground, according to authorities.
AP Photo/Dave Sherman

Serious questions were raised Monday about the pilot of Continental Flight 3407 and the training he received prior to the February crash which killed all 49 people aboard.

CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports Colgan Air confirms the captain on that frigid Buffalo night, 47-year-old Marvin Renslow, had racked up five unsatisfactory test flights, called "check rides." Two were during his three-year tenure at the airline, and three in the years before that.

Transcript of cockpit conversation on Colgan Air Flight 3407, which crashed in Buffalo, N.Y.
Renslow had just 2 months experience on the Q400 turboprop. His co-pilot, Rebecca Shaw, was 24 years old.

Former National Transportation and Safety Board member John Goglia says, "It looks like we have two inexperienced crew members in the cockpit. And we learned a long time ago that that's not a very good idea."

The plane was on final approach to Buffalo Niagara International Airport in upstate New York when the stick shaker activated, alerting pilots that they were going too slow and about to stall. As the stick automatically pushed forward in order to dive the plane and pick up airspeed, the captain pulled up -- exactly the opposite of what pilots are trained to do.

Operator Colgan Air acknowledged Monday that Renslow never trained on the stall warning system in a simulator, only in the classroom.

"The stick-shaker training is, in my view, very, very important," Goglia says. "And to just read it out of a book and just talk about it is not very good training."

Scott Maurer lost his 30-year-old daughter Lorin in the crash, which also killed a 50th victim on the ground. An athletic manager at Princeton University, he went to Washington with Lorin's boyfriend hoping to get some answers on the crash at NTSB hearings scheduled for this week.

Kevin Kuwik, Lorin's boyfriend, says, "The things you're hearing today, they certainly don't give you a warm and fuzzy feeling about the day-to-day operations of some of these small commuter airlines."

Colgan Air points out that its training regimen was examined and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. NTSB sources say the FAA standards will be a prime focus at the hearings.

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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.