Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Colgan says it is no longer hiring inexperienced pilots
By Jerry Zremski
WASHINGTON — Colgan Air has revised its pilot hiring standards in a way that would have disqualified someone as inexperienced as the pilot of the doomed Flight 3407, the company said today as hearings into the Feb. 12 crash turned to the company's hiring and employment practices.
In addition, testimony revealed that the copilot of Flight 3407 — which crashed into a home in Clarence, killing 50 — had a gross annual salary of about $16,254 a year.
The second day of National Transportation Safety Board hearings in the crash moved the focus away from the pilot, Capt. Marvin Renslow, and toward Colgan, the Continental Airlines subcontractor that operated Flight 3407.
Under questioning from investigators, Mary Finnegan, Colgan's vice president for administration, acknowledged that when Renslow was hired, the minimum number of flight hours to be considered for hiring was 600 hours.
Since the Clarence crash, Colgan has boosted its minimum flying requirement for new pilots to 1,000 hours, Finnegan acknowledged.
That acknowledgement came a day after the transcript of the flight's cockpit voice recorder showed Renslow saying he had only 625 hours of flying time when Colgan hired him.
"Oh wow," the co-pilot, Rebecca Lynn Shaw, replied. "That's not much for, uh, back when you got hired."
Colgan officials also said that if they had known that Renslow failed to acknowledge on his job application that he had failed three federal "check flights," he would not have been hired.
Renslow acknowledged only one of those failures, but Colgan, hamstrung in part by a federal privacy law, never double-checked that part of his application with the Federal Aviation Administration.
Asked if Renslow "slipped under the radar" by getting hired at Colgan, Finnegan said no.
"I don't think he slipped in under the radar," she said. "We did our job."
Colgan officials also faced harsh questions about how much it pays its flight crews.
Investigator Roger Cox said his research showed Colgan pilots making $21 an hour — or $16,254 a year.
Finnegan said the hourly salary is closer to $23 an hour, meaning Shaw would have made more than $16,254. Nevertheless, Cox questioned whether that is enough for Colgan employees such as Shaw who are based in Newark.
"Did you expect her to reside in the New York metro area at that rate of pay?," he asked.
"We do not dictate where our employs want to live," replied Finnegan, saying Colgan's salaries are "industry standard."
Shaw commuted on an overnight flight from her home in Seattle before reporting to duty in Newark the day of the crash.
The Rams Horn
The Rams Horn on Facebook