Co-Pilot in Deadly Buffalo Crash Wanted to Skip Flight

Shaw complained about pay and feeling ill

The co-pilot in an airline crash that killed 50 people complained before that flight that she felt ill and would have liked to have skipped the trip, a new cockpit voice recorder transcript shows.

First Officer Rebecca Shaw also complained about poor treatment by Colgan Air Inc. of Manassas, Va., which operated flight 3047 for Continental Airlines on Feb. 12. The plane left Newark and went down in a fireball outside of Buffalo, killing all on board. The new transcript also reveals that Shaw had complained about how little she was paid.

Shaw said she earned only $15,800 the previous year and the airline was refusing to give her $200 in back pay she felt she was owed.
The transcript was released Monday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The new information comes just months after the NTSB held hearings in Washington where investigators said Shaw was forced to live with her parents and commute cross-country to her job because of the low pay.

Her commute the night of the accident was especially difficult. It included an over-night flight from her home in Seattle and a transfer in Memphis in order to reach her base airport in Newark. She had sent text messages complaining she did not feel well, officials said.

The low pay, lengthy commutes and lack of areas where pilots could rest added up to a risk to passengers, NTSB member Kitty Higgins said during the hearing.

"I think it's a recipe for an accident, and that's what we have here," Higgins said.

Colgan executives defended their pay scale. Vice President Mary Finnigan told the NTSB that Colgan's pay is "within the industry standard."

NTSB investigators said 93 of the 137 Colgan pilots who worked out of Newark at the time of the accident were commuting from far away, including 29 living more than 1,000 miles away.

The flight's pilot, Capt. Marvin Renslow, commuted to Newark from Florida. Colgan officials said their captains typically earn around $55,000 a year.

The NTSB hearing also revealed that Renslow had fabricated his flight record when he was hired by Colgan Air last year.

The 47-year old "would've been immediately dismissed," had the airline known, Finnigan said.

"If the pilot is a professional pilot, he should answer honestly," she said.

A cockpit voice recorder transcript shows Renslow and Shaw engaging in chitchat about careers and her lack of experience flying in icy conditions during the plane's final minutes before crashing into a home, even after they had noticed a buildup of ice on the windshield and wings.

Colgan officials acknowledged in response to board members' questions Tuesday that Renslow and Shaw weren't paying close attention to the plane's instruments and were surprised by a stall warning. Nor did they follow the airline's procedures for responding to a stall.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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