Colgan Air accident’s 3rd Anniversary – a Reminder that Pilot Fatigue can Kill
On 12 February 2009, Colgan Air flight 3407 bound to Buffalo airport crashed into a populated area shortly before landing. All 49 passengers and crew onboard died, plus one person on the ground. The investigation revealed that pilot fatigue played a major role in this accident. Three years later, the US government took action by introducing new science-based rules to prevent pilot fatigue. In Europe we must do the same. When updating EU fatigue rules, this year, the EU must have one top priority: protect passengers from such a tragedy to occur in Europe!
Had the same accident happened here in Brussels, the plane could have crashed into a densely populated residential area just 1 kilometre away from the European Commission building. In fact, it could have come down on one of the busiest metro stations in Brussels – Montgomery Station.
Legend: the blue line shows where the plane (9.3 km from Brussels airport) could have fallen if the Colgan Air accident had happened in Brussels.
“Here in Brussels, many planes take off and land every day, flying over the town and its inhabitants. With blue skies and fully alert pilots at the commands, this is usual business” says Capt. Thomas flying for one of the many airlines that connect to the Belgian capital. “But the Colgan Air accident took place in snow, fog and windy conditions. If in addition the pilots are fatigued due to a long flight or insufficient rest, a routine operation can become a real challenge – even for the best trained professionals. And – as this accident showed – the consequences can be fatal, both for those on board and those on the ground.”
“This year, the EU has a unique opportunity to offer European passengers with what they need most: safe flight operations” says Nico Voorbach, a pilot himself and President of the Brussels-based European Cockpit Association. “Unfortunately, the latest EU proposal for pilot fatigue rules is insufficient. It must be improved significantly – in line with scientific evidence – to protect not only passengers but also the people living under our daily flight paths. Allowing pilots to land their aircraft after having been awake for 20 hours or more can hardly be considered safe. Under the new US pilot fatigue rules, this would not be allowed. Neither should it in Europe. We cannot afford to wait for such an accident before the EU acts decisively.”