Colgan Air Inc Flight # 3407

Colgan Air Inc Flight # 3407




Colgan Air Flight #3407


The accident that occurred involving Colgan Air Flight #3407, which was a DHC-8-400 (Q400) Bombardier, occurred in February 12, 2009. The aircraft was headed towards Buffalo-Niagara International Airport where the crashing occurred. It crashed into the Clarence Centre that is located five nautical miles from the airport. The causalities in the accident involved 2 flight attendants, 2 pilots, and 45 passengers who were on board the plane at the time it was crashing (Bush & Miller, 2011). In terms of operating provisions, the aircraft was regulated and controlled using the Code of Federal Regulations with the incorporation of the evaluations made pertaining to the metrological conditions observed at that particular time. The main report that was released directed at explaining the cause of the accident was that that it was facilitated by the negligence and incompetence of the pilot who failed to coordinate the appropriate response that was required in ensuring that the stick shaker was activated (Bush & Miller, 2011). Due to this incompetence, there was a development of an aerodynamic stall, which the plane was unable to recover. In addition, several contributory factors were forwarded as contributing to the occurrence of the accident. This case study analysis seeks to evaluate the probable causes of the accident and provide information on measures that would have been undertaken to ensure that it was avoided.


General Analysis of the Accident

According to the Federal regulations, the pilots that were handling the Q400 were qualified and certified hence, there was no issues with the level of skills they had in aviation (Gordon, Mendenhall & O’Connor, 2013). Additionally, when evaluating the status of the plane according to the standards of the Federal, it was well equipped, maintained, and certified. At the site of the accident, it was observable that the accident was not caused by any systems; engine or structural hence validating that it was in good condition. The icing conditions were also evaluated. According to the air traffic controller, the wintertime operations provided for the plane were availed (Fitzgerald, 2010). However, the only missing component was the fact there was loss of radar and radio contact prior to the occurrence of the accident. However, it was clearly indicated that the accident sequential events were not caused by the minimal effect of the icing that had occurred.

Likely Reasons for Failed Detection of the Stick Shaker Activation

Indication of Air speeds. In a plane craft, the right and left primary displays usually indicate airspeed. According to the flight manual of the plane, it was observed that the airspeed, which was indicated, was on the vertical scale on the PFD’s left side (Gordon, Mendenhall & O’Connor, 2013). The marks indicated that the plane’s IAS had an extra 10 knots on top of the expected 42 knots, which should have been the actual IAS (Bush & Miller, 2011). In a normal aircraft, the airspeeds displayed or trend vector was supposed to range between 30 knots to 500 knots. This is primary because this indicator is used to display whether the plane is going at a higher speed than required. According to the information provided by the manual, the activation of the stick shaker is usually facilitated when the IAS is equal or less than the speed indicated at the low speed cue (Fitzgerald, 2010). A red alert is also turned which where the IAS numbers are indicated hence creating a visual warning sign to the pilot that the plane is flying at a low speed.

To illustrate the negligence on the flying pilot’s part, the NTBS explain that the pilot had an approximated 18 seconds to respond to the flickering red alert signal that indicated the activation of the stick shaker. Ultimately, only two reasons can be provided for the lack of detection of the stick shaker indication. Firstly, the pilots lacked the knowledge on the consequent effects of ref speeds switch position hence ignoring the alert (Bush & Miller, 2011). Secondly, the first officer was unable to detect the alert due to her tasks at that particular moment thus reducing the chances of detection.

Inappropriate Response Towards Stick Shaker Activation. On the activation of the stick shaker, the deactivation of the autopilot occurred automatically. This means that the aircraft lacked the aerodynamic stall that would have facilitated the correction of the situation through leveling of the wings as well as the load factor. The first inappropriate response towards this inactivation of the autopilot by the captain was the shifting the aft control column input (Hoppe, 2011). His response indicated that he had placed his hand near the column as it occurred immediately after 1 second after the stick shaker was activated hence he had adequate time to respond this activation as well (Fitzgerald, 2010). The second act that depicts inappropriate response was the fact that instead of pulling the column forward, the pilot pushed it back hence failing to reduce the AOA (Gordon, Mendenhall & O’Connor, 2013). The resulting effect was the pitching of the plane’s altitude and further decrease of the speed. This is validated by the investigation conducted by NTBS that indicated that the plane’s AOA oscillated from a value of 10 degrees to 27 degrees with the maintenance of a very low speed values, which ensured that the stick shaker was activated the entire period. Conversely, the response of the pilot was inappropriate and further increased the chances of the plane crashing which was the consequent result after the autopilot controls were deactivated.

Prevention of Future Failures in Monitoring

According to the NTBS reports, the main reason that explains the crashing of the Q400 was lack of proper monitoring by the flight crewmembers. They failed to check and regulated the plane’s power, altitude, and airspeed, which are imperative controls that should be constantly monitored to avoid malfunctioning of the aircraft (Hoppe, 2011). Following this mishap and the subsequent death of the persons within the aircraft, strategies have been forwarded that can ensure that such cat6astrophic incidences do not recur and that the airline maintain a reputable presence within the airline industries.

Monitoring Training. Based on the studies conducted, the NTBS has actualized the reality that monitoring training is imperative for flight crew members as it has been effective in reducing the number of accidents that occur in the aviation industry. With this in mind, this body has implemented the Safety Recommendations A-94-3 as well as four on the FAA (Gordon, Mendenhall & O’Connor, 2013). The primary reason for this action is to further promote the need for the flight crewmembers. Part of the recommended training that the FAA would offer the flight crewmember should involved operational stimulation training. The main reason for this is to provide a platform whereby the crewmembers can practice and note the challenging and monitoring errors they are likely to make in a real situation.

Procedural Setup of the Flight Deck. In ensuring that the pilots are able to direct the flight in an effective manner, the FAA has implemented a design guideline (Hoppe, 2011). The sole aim for this action is to ensure that appropriate crosschecking and monitoring are conducted to avoid inappropriate response. Through availing this guidelines, the pilots and crew members are able to understand the standard procedures that are appropriate for the crew members on deck as it provides elaborative examples and logical rational on the importance of these procedures as well as information on how the crew can improve their monitoring skills.

In conclusion, it is evident that Colgan Air Inc Flight accident would have been prevented. Based on the report from the NTBS, prompt response to the stick shaker alert and adequate training on monitoring control systems were the probable solutions that would have curtailed the occurrence of this catastrophe. The implementation of the recommendations forwarded by NTBS will be imperative to assure the public of safety while traveling using the Airline.



Bush, M., & Miller, R. (2011). The crash of Colgan Air flight 3407. The Journal Of The American Dental Association, 142(12), 1352-1356.

Fitzgerald, A. (2010). Air crash investigations. [Lexington, KY]: Mabuhay Publishing.

Gordon, S., Mendenhall, P., & O’Connor, B. (2013). Beyond the checklist. Ithaca, N.Y.: ILR Press.

Hoppe, E. (2011). Ethical issues in aviation. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate.

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