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Copilot in Buffalo plane crash felt sick

A new transcript of the cockpit voice recorder shows copilot Rebecca Shaw didn't want to pay for a hotel. Testimony has shown the pilots made critical errors before the Feb. 12 crash, which killed 50.

July 28, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The copilot in February's airline crash that killed 50 people in upstate New York complained to the flight's captain that she felt ill and would have skipped the flight but didn't want to pay for a hotel room, according to a new cockpit voice recorder transcript.

The extended transcript, released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board, shows pilot Marvin Renslow commiserated with First Officer Rebecca Shaw, but didn't suggest she pull out of the flight.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations say pilots should not fly if they're feeling sick. The captain is responsible for overseeing the crew.

The two conversed while Continental Connection Flight 3407 waited for clearance to take off from Newark Liberty International Airport for Buffalo.

Shaw told Renslow that if she had felt as sick the previous day, when she was at home near Seattle, she would have stayed there.

"I'm ready to be in the hotel room," Shaw told Renslow after one of several sniffling sounds noted on the transcript. "This is one of those times that if I felt like this when I was at home, there's no way I would have come all the way out here. But now that I'm out here -- "

"You might as well," Renslow responded.

"I mean, if I call in sick now, I've got to put myself in a hotel room until I feel better," said Shaw, who also complained about her low salary. "We'll see how . . . it feels flying. If the pressure's just too much I, you know, I could always call in tomorrow. At least I'm in a hotel on the company's buck, but we'll see. I'm pretty tough."

Shaw also complained about poor treatment by Colgan Air Inc. of Manassas, Va., which operated the flight for Continental Airlines. She said that she had earned only $15,800 the previous year and that the airline was refusing to give her $200 in back pay.

Testimony at an NTSB hearing in May showed that Renslow and Shaw made a series of critical errors before the Feb. 12 crash.

It's not clear where either pilot slept the night before the crash or for how long, but it appeared from testimony that they may have tried to nap in a crew lounge at the airport rather than pay for a hotel room. A fatigue expert testified that the pilots' judgment was probably impaired.

Colgan spokesman Joe Williams said in a statement that the airline doesn't condone pilots flying when they are sick or fatigued.

"Every Colgan Air pilot has an absolute obligation as a professional to show up for work fit for duty," Williams said. "As is common in the airline industry, we have reserve pilots available in case they are not."

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