I just watched an interesting, if not revelatory, documentary on the crash of Colgan Air flight 3407. That particular crash I remember well just because it happened right around a memorable moment in my own life, but also because of just how odd it seemed to me in the aftermath that seemingly unimaginable decisions (or perhaps more accurately reactions) were taken by the crew. As it transpired, neither the first officer or the captain were particularly experienced by industry standards, and both were tired and quite probably overworked. Colgan Air has been described as a landmark case, in that it prompted a move by the FAA to require that all First Officers in the US have at least an Airline Transport Pilot licence, which requires 1500 hours of experience. This is a vast increase on the previous limit of a Commercial Pilot Licence, which only requires around 250 hours. Whilst I am all in favour of ensuring that pilots are appropriately experienced, I feel that in this case, the FAA and the US Government as a whole failed to realise that the chain of events leading up to this crash wasn’t necessarily anything to do with the experience of the pilots, but rather the poor conditions and pay of the crew, and the pressure to always put profits first that was endemic in regional airlines. As professional pilots, we’re always told that nothing is more important than safety, but it seems that in some cases that’s just a mantra that the management repeat for inspectors, and very much not what they expect of their pilots and maintenance crew. While aviation is a fantastically safe industry, I find it sad that there are some who fail to set themselves those high standards of due diligence. When you take paying passengers on board, they expect that you have done all that is possible to ensure their safety, and in my opinion it is a crime to have not done so.
Check out the documentary below on this most pivotal of flights.