NTSB debates aural alerts after Colgan crash

Washington DC
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While investigators at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) largely agree the crew in the fatal February 2009 Colgan Air Bombardier Q400 crash reacted inappropriately to an aircraft stall, board members are questioning the need for aural cues for low speed warnings.

During the first half of the final hearing today to unveil the probable cause for the fatal crash, investigators suggested that the captain and first officer had enough time to react accordingly after seeing a "salient" low-speed cue on the Q400's primary flight display.

But much of the discussion focused on low-speed visual cues on the Q400s display, and whether aural alerts would have resulted in a different outcome.

In a strong response director of NTSB's office of aviation safety Tom Haueter said he had never seen a pilot react to stall event in the same manner as the captain of the Colgan aircraft.

Haueter stresses it was "such a negative reaction to pull back so aggressively" on the aircraft yoke once the stickshaker stall warning activated, the pilot created a 1.5g vertical acceleration on the aircraft.

Haueter also tells board members that he's not convinced the pilots would have acted differently if an aural alert had activated.

Discussions also centred around a similar event that occurred in Burlington, Vermont after the Colgan crash that featured a low speed indicator. Although a check airman joined the captain and first officer in the cockpit, not one of the crew members saw the indicator.

Investigators did not name the specific aircraft, but said the captain was hand flying the aircraft, and "did not have to reengage with the control loop, she was already in the control loop and recovered with addition of power".

The pilots of the fatal Colgan crash were operating with autopilot.

NTSB later today should reveal roughly 23 safety recommendations related to its investigation.