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Pilot Error Blamed for Ohio Plane Crash that Killed Five

October 6, 1994

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Pilots of a United Express commuter flight inadvertently threw the plane into a stall, then bungled basic procedures for recovering control, leading to the January crash in Ohio that killed five people, investigators concluded Thursday.

″How often do two competent people make those kinds of errors?″ asked National Transportation Safety Board member Carl Vogt.

The board ruled that pilots’ mistakes; unfamiliarity with a new type of plane, the British Aerospace Jetstream 41; and inadequate training were the probable causes of the crash in suburban Gahanna, Ohio.

The pilots had planned their approach to Columbus poorly and ″allowed the airspeed to decay to stall speed,″ the board said. Then, instead of pushing power to maximum levels to recover from the stall, they raised the flaps.

NTSB staffer David Ivey described the procedure for getting out of a stall as an elementary part of pilot training.

″It’s just like teaching you how to walk,″ he said. ″It’s a basic part of flying; the first thing you do is push the power up.″

The board pointedly described Capt. Derrick White and First Officer Anthony Samuels, both of whom were killed in the crash, as qualified, competent rookies.

″We have an accident that, at least in my judgement, relates primarily to airmanship and experience,″ said Vogt.

White had never done a nighttime instrument approach in that model of Jetstream under the conditions he faced the snowy night of Jan. 7.

It also was White’s first flight as pilot-in-command. His total flying time on all aircraft was listed as 3,660 hours, with 1,373 on multi-engine turboprops.

Samuels, who had 2,432 hours total flying time, with 110 on multi-engine turboprops, had completed his Jetstream 41 training one month before the crash.

″You have a situation where you have both flight crew members who have virtually no experience in this aircraft type and this type of condition,″ said board member John Hammerschmidt. ″It seems to me that in itself is almost a loophole in the safety net.″

White was more experienced in the Jetstream 31, which handles differently and has the traditional cockpit dials and gauges instead of the computer- screen display of the Jetstream 41.

The board listed the unfamiliarity with the new type of cockpit among the crash’s probable causes.

The board said the new captain was flying with a rookie copilot in part because of a labor agreement that prevented more experienced pilots from moving up into the Jetstream 41′s when the company that operated the planes - Sterling, Va.-based Atlantic Coast Airways - bought the first 41′s used in this country.

Capt. Jeffrey Brundage, the pilots’ top union official at Atlantic Coast, said the company requested that agreement to save money by keeping trained pilots in the same type of aircraft for 18- or 24-month stints.

The board recommended that the Federal Aviation Administration change training rules to increase emphasis on stall warnings and recoveries.

The FAA has been working on new standards requiring commuter pilots to undergo the same training as jetliner captains, and spokeswoman Liz Neblett said the new standards were due out shortly.

Meanwhile, the FAA in the next few days will order the replacement of some 27,000 seat belts in use around the country, she said.

The directive was promised after the Ohio crash survivors told investigators they had a difficult time getting out of their seat belts.

The buckles met federal regulations, but investigators discovered that the FAA’s tests did not take into account the pressure of human bellies on the latches.

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