Friday, February 12, 2010

Families Walk the Last Miles of Flight 3407

One year ago today, a Continental Connection commuter plane, Flight 3407, dove from the sky as it approached the Buffalo Niagara International Airport and crashed into a home in Clarence Center, New York, killing fifty people, the forty-nine on board and a man in the home destroyed by the aircraft.

Today, an estimated 800 people symbolically completed the failed flight by walking the 10-mile distance from the former site of Douglas and Karen Wielinski's home to the airport.

From Jerry Zremski at The Buffalo News:
Local residents stepped out of their homes, and workers stepped out of their offices to wave at the marchers and to wish them their best.
At Nativity of Mary School in Clarence, all the students from Pre-K through eighth grade stood outside, handing roses to family members and giving high fives to people walking with them.
Along Goodrich Road, Mary Jane Jentz of Lancaster stood alone and said "God bless you" to every passerby.
"There is nothing I can do except to say a prayer for those lost," Jentz said.
The huge crowd of people, many wearing red hats and scarves and photos of their lost loved ones hanging from their necks, left the Clarence Fire Hall about 9:30 a.m.
A large contingent of police accompanied the walkers and closed the streets on their route. The walk's first stop was the small vacant lot on Long Street, where a house stood until the plane crashed into it a year ago.
Family members laid a wreath on the site, said a prayer and set off to complete the journey their loved ones never finished.
The symbolic walk to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport honors the 50 victims of the crash, but also is intended further the cause the families took up shortly afterwards: promoting aviation safety to prevent any such tragedy from happening again.
And Jeffrey Skiles, the co-pilot of the USAirways jet that made an emergency landing on the Hudson River last year, will be with the families for the whole day.
"I'm here to support the families and to support this issue," Skiles said. "We're all doing this to make some changes, to make sure this sort of tragedy is never visited upon another community and other families."
Scott Maurer, who lost his daughter, Lorin, in the crash, praised Skiles for his efforts on behalf of the families.
"Jeff has been a phenomenal supporter of our efforts," Maurer said. "He exemplifies the importance of experience in the cockpit and has the results to prove it. Hopefully, the Senate leadership will take note of his message and act decisively to raise the unacceptably low standards for pilots to be hired commercially today."
Those standards came into sharp relief last week as the National Transportation Safety Board issued its report in the Clarence crash, blaming it primarily on the crew's actions.
Colgan Air, the regional airline that operated Flight 3407 for Continental, hired the pilot of Flight 3407 without knowing he had a history of flunking flight tests.
And as Flight 3407 approached Buffalo for landing last February, the pilot, Marvin Renslow, let the plane get too slow and then mishandled the stall warning, the safety board said. Meanwhile, the co-pilot, Rebecca Shaw, inputted the wrong speed settings into the plane's controls and put the flaps on the wings in the wrong position once the plane encountered trouble.
That history has haunted the Flight 3407 families since the safety board held hearings in the crash last May. 
May they rest in peace.

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