Settlements in 3407 crash should not allow airlines to hide vital information - The Buffalo News

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Settlements in 3407 crash should not allow airlines to hide vital information

The Families of Flight 3407 and the general public have a right to all the facts surrounding that tragic crash, regardless of whether lawsuits are settled before reaching court.

As recently reported in The News, a federal court trial that family members of the victims thought would be an opportunity to address the question of fault was called off because the case’s eight remaining lawsuits were settled.

There is the possibility of a state trial on the three suits pending in that arena, but the airlines are expected to make a strong push to settle those cases also.

The settlements should not be allowed to hide information on the crash.

The families deserve to know why their loved ones died. The traveling public and especially the people of this area deserve the same.

The crash in Clarence Center on Feb. 12, 2009, which killed 50 people including a man in his house, has been blamed on pilot error. Whether the airlines that hired, trained and managed the pilots bear responsibility has never been determined. Congressional pressure should be put to bear on the airlines for full disclosure.

Families have always argued that Colgan Air and Continental Airlines were as responsible for the crash as the two pilots. The plane was owned and operated by Colgan and flew under the Continental Connection banner. Within months of the crash, families filed 46 wrongful-death lawsuits in federal court here. The final suits were settled last week.

Those settlements mean the public may never hear such evidence as the so-called Sabatini safety audit. Colgan hired Nick Sabatini & Associates, an Alexandria, Va., consulting firm, after the crash to review the airlines’ training and safety record.

Lawyers for the families believe that Sabatini’s report would support their opinion that the pilots were overworked and undertrained. Moreover, the trial likely also would have revealed emails, documents and testimony suggesting the pilot, Marvin D. Renslow, was not properly trained.

Thanks to the families, Congress passed tougher aviation safety regulations in 2010. Before the Flight 3407 crash, much of the flying public had likely assumed that its pilots were trained in such basic skills as recovering from midair upsets or stalls. Turned out that the 3407 pilots were not required to have such training.

Long-overdue changes in the standards for pilots and the amount of rest they are required to have, along with tougher rules on pilot training, were borne out of tragedy. The airline industry pushed back against the changes and the Federal Aviation Administration dragged its feet in rolling out the new rules, but the families did not give up. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., led the political fight to make the rules a reality.

The stringent pilot training rules won’t take effect until February 2019. We hope FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta is correct and airlines will adopt them sooner. So far, the airline industry is complaining that the new rules are causing economic stress. Too bad. Adjust. Give pilots better pay to attract new and better ones into the cockpit, and retired military pilots off the sidelines.

In the meantime, any and all information that would shed light on what caused Flight 3407 to crash ought to be shared in its fullest detail. The families and public are owed that much.

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