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The Colgan Air 3407 accident

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The Colgan Air 3407 accident
An understanding of the factors that lead to aircraft accidents can enable the aviation
industry to develop policies and procedures to avoid these catastrophes. On February 12, 2009, a
Colgan Air, Inc., Bombardier DHC-8-400, N200WQ, operating as Continental Connection flight
3407, crashed into a residence in Clarence Center, New York. All persons on board (2 pilots, 2
flight attendants, and 45 passengers) and one individual on the ground were killed, and the
aircraft was destroyed by the impact forces and a postcrash fire (National Transport Safety Board
[NTSB], 81). According to NTSB’s report, the accident was caused by the captain’s
inappropriate responses to the activation of the stick shaker that resulted in an irrecoverable
aerodynamic stall.
The flight data recorder (FDR) of the Colgan Air 3407, recorded the activation and
propeller deice equipment when the plane was climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 1600
feet. Since the sky had a lot of ice, the captain would have turned the ref speed switch to the
increase position; however, he did not (NTSB 81). Normally, the turning of the ref speeds switch
from off to increase position increases the position of the low-speed cue on pilots IAS displays
by about 15 knots and lowers the angle of attack (AOA) reference for stick shaker activation.
At 2150:42, the first officer received a signal from the Buffalo Niagara International
Airport (BUF ATIS) and entered the planned landing information including the airplane’s
landing weight and intended runway into the Aircraft Communications Addressing and

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Reporting System (ACARS) for transmittal. Despite the icing conditions, she did not enter the
keywords “icing” or ‘eice” when sending the information (NTSB 81). As a result, at 2153:00,
ACARS returned incorrect AeroDAta landing performance showing a Vref of 118knots and a
Vga of 114 knots (NTSB 81). These speeds were inappropriate for an airplane cruising in icing
conditions. Despite the inaccurate data, the airplane responded to the control inputs until the
wing stalled.
At 2216:27, the stick shaker was activated, which occurred at an AOA of about 8
degrees, a load factor of 1 G, and an airspeed of 131 knots (NTSB 81). Since the ref speeds had
been selected for icing conditions, the stall warning occurred at an airspeed of 15 knots higher
than expected for a Q400 when there is no ice accretion. In a normal condition, stick shakers
usually provide pilots with a warning of between 5 and 7 knots of an imminent stall (NTSB 82).
Therefore, the pilots had a 20-22 knot warning of a potential stall.
The flight data recorder indicated that the autopilot disconnected automatically after the
stick shaker activated. In response, the captain applied a 37-pound pull force to the control
column, which resulted in an airplane-nose-up elevator deflection and increased power (NTSB
82). As a result, the AOA increased to 13 degrees, the pitch attitude moved to 18 degrees, the
load factor changed from 1.0 to 1.4 Gs, and the airspeed slowed to 125 knots. Consequently,
there was an increase in the airspeed at which a stall would occur (NTSB 82). These inputs made
the airflow over the wing to separate because the AOA was exceeded, which resulted in an
aerodynamic stall that made the left wing to roll down up to an angle of 45 degrees.
Following the erroneous reaction by the captain, the airplane experienced several roll
oscillations during the aerodynamic stall. The roll angle shifted to 105 degrees right wing down
when the captain applied a 41-pound pull force to the control column. Later on, he applied a 90-

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Surname 1 Surname Tutor Course Date The Colgan Air 3407 accident An understanding of the factors that lead to aircraft accidents can enable the aviation industry to develop policies and procedures to avoid these catastrophes. On February 12, 2009, a Colgan Air, Inc., Bombardier DHC-8-400, N200WQ, operating as Continental Connection flight 3407, crashed into a residence in Clarence Center, New York. All persons on board (2 pilots, 2 flight attendants, and 45 passengers) and one individual on the ground were killed, and the aircraft was destroyed by the impact forces and a postcrash fire (National Transport Safety Board [NTSB], 81). According to NTSB’s report, the accident was caused by the captain’s inappropriate responses to the activation of the stick shaker that resulted in an irrecoverable aerodynamic stall. The flight data recorder (FDR) of the Colgan Air 3407, recorded the activation and propeller deice equipment when the plane was climbing to its assigned cruising altitude of 1600 feet. Since the sky had a lot of ice, the captain would have turned the ref speed switch to the increase position; however, he did not (NTSB 81). Normally, the turning of the ref speeds switch f ...
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