A lawyer representing families of the victims of the crash of flight 3407, which plunged into a home near Buffalo, N.Y., in February 2009, has released an internal Colgan Air email chain which, he says, shows that the pilot was not qualified to fly the type of plane that crashed.
The “smoking gun” emails – which appear to support the plaintiffs’ contention that the airline failed to properly train the pilot - had been discussed in court earlier this month but had been, until today, confidential.
The emails cover a period in late August 2008 – about six months before the crash – and indicate that the pilot, 47-year- old Marvin Renslow, “had a problem upgrading.”
As a result, Colgan’s VP of flight operations wrote that “anyone that does not meet the [minimums] and had problems in training before is not ready to tackle the Q,” a reference to the Bombardier DHC8-402 Q400.
The airline’s chief pilot then responded, “He is already off the list.”
According to plaintiffs’ lawyer Hugh M. Russ III, Renslow was promoted about a month later without additional experience or training that would have made him qualified. Russ calls the email chain “a devastating admission on the part of Colgan” and says it shows that “Colgan chose profits over safety” in electing to promote Renslow “even though they knew he was not qualified.”
Airline spokesman Joe Williams disputed that, saying in a statement to ABC News that Renslow subsequently completed additional testing ”without any training deficiencies or problems noted.” As a result, the statement says, ”Capt. Renslow was properly trained, certified and qualified to act as Pilot-In-Command of a Q400 aircraft.”
The spokesman did not immediately respond to a request from ABC News for documentation to support its statement.
The plaintiffs’ attorney said he had yet to see any evidence that Renslow was given further training and experience on the Q-400 before the crash. “There is no proof that would confirm Colgan’s position,” Russ told ABC News. ”I would simply call it wishful thinking.”
Continental Connection Flight 3407 from Newark to Buffalo, operated by Colgan Air, crashed into a home in the Buffalo suburb of Clarence Center, about 5 miles short of the runway. The accident killed 49 passengers on the plane, including the crew, and one person in the house. An NTSB investigation found that pilot error was the primary cause of the crash.