Details Emerge From Commuter Crash Probe

Last Updated May 15, 2009 1:48 AM EDT

As the National Transportation Safety Board continued to investigate a Continental Connection flight which crashed near Buffalo, N.Y. and killed 50 people, details emerged citing that pilots were tired, had failed past licensing tests and were grossly underpaid.

Rebecca Shaw, copilot on the doomed Colgan Air Flight 3407, made only $23,900 a year, about a third of similar pilots, and worked part-time in a coffee shop. According to Bloomberg, Shaw lived in the Seattle area with her parents and commuted to Newark for the job. Records of her phone calls and texts led NTSB officials to believe she had little sleep the night before and day of the flight.

Capt. Marvin Renslow, who commuted from Florida, was also believed to be similiarly fatigued -- caught napping before the flight. Renslow was estimated to make about $50,000 a year.
NTSB investigators reached few conclusions, but at least one member said that the Bombardier Dash 8-Q400's current low air speed warning system may go off too late. Suggestions were made to make the warning, also called the shaking stick, go off earlier.

For me, the most interesting part of the probe was exposing the grueling lifestyle, low pay and obvious fatigue of a second-tier commercial pilot. Does anyone really expect a high level of professionalism and experience from a pilot being paid less than $24,000 a year? And shouldn't airlines, regional or not, be willing to provide pilots a hotel room for a good night's sleep before a flight, to lessen the chances of exhausted and poor decision-making?

Perhaps this investigation could prompt changes in regional airline policy and prevent tragic consequences like Flight 3407 from ever occurring again.