Release #10.004
February 2, 2010

NTSB Colgan 3407 Investigation Report Takes Step Backward in Enhancing Safety
Single Probable Cause Fails to Acknowledge Need to Enhance Pilot Screening, Training, and Mentoring

WASHINGTON – Discussion during today’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Sunshine Meeting on the Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident highlighted many long-standing aviation safety priorities of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), including identifying a clear need to improve pilot screening, training, and mentoring, and modernize flight-time/duty-time regulations for airline pilots. However, the Board ignored the bulk of these factors in its statement of probable cause.

“We are deeply disappointed that the NTSB’s probable cause statement abandoned the systems approach to accident investigation that the International Civil Aviation Organization and other agencies around the world are adopting,” said Capt. John Prater, ALPA’s president. “During its discussions, the Board identified the need to improve training, develop experience, improve cockpit displays, enhance oversight, and provide better weather information to crews. However, the statement of probable cause failed to fully and directly acknowledge the many factors that contributed to this accident. Creating a safer industry means looking at all the reasons why this tragedy occurred and taking aggressive action to ensure nothing similar happens again.”

“With today’s report, the Board has missed a valuable opportunity to highlight the many factors that combined to cause this tragedy,” said Prater. “The conclusion of simple pilot error ignores the multitude of contributing factors in every accident. The single, narrow focus of the probable cause statement issued today is an unfortunate move backward away from that goal.”

For decades, ALPA has advocated for improved pilot training that reflects all aspects of being a professional airline pilot. Adequate training is particularly important for unexpected, abnormal, and potentially hazardous situations. Crew Resource Management and command training are also essential, so that pilots learn the judgment and leadership skills that they need to manage their work in the cockpit.

“Training is an investment in safety, but it is expensive and the current structure of our industry economically penalizes those airline managements that seek to do more than the minimum training required,” said Capt. Paul Rice, ALPA’s first vice-president. “While we’ve seen encouraging progress in improving pilot training and developing tailored programs that reflect pilots’ skills and experience, our industry must do much more to achieve the highest training standards possible.”

In addition, ALPA has long urged the FAA to create new flight-time and duty-time and minimum rest requirements for all types of flying, from long-haul international to multi-leg domestic. While the Association has worked for decades to address pilot fatigue, ALPA pilots have most recently participated in the FAA’s Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which was charged with making recommendations for updating the rules.

“The FAA’s timeline for modernizing airline pilots’ flight-time and duty-time has slipped from the original target,” continued Prater. “For years, ALPA has been calling for science-based rules that apply equally to all operations, including domestic, international, and supplemental flying. Our passengers and crews deserve to have a final rule in place before the end of 2010.”

ALPA also emphasizes airline management’s role and responsibility in developing a corporate culture centered on safety and that is designed to detect trends and implement solutions to enhance safety.

“Airline management plays a pivotal role in setting the tone for safety and professionalism at an individual airline,” said Capt. Rory Kay, ALPA’s Executive Air Safety Chairman. “Pilots, and all employees, must feel confident that they can report issues through non-punitive safety reporting programs without fear of retribution, as part of a corporate culture that is firmly focused on creating the safest possible flight operations.”

Given ALPA’s long-standing efforts to continuously enhance professionalism among our members and throughout the industry, we fully expect to make a valuable contribution to the NTSB’s upcoming forum on pilot and air traffic controller excellence that was announced at today’s hearing.

The Association adopted its Code of Ethics in 1956. Since then, the Association has taken many actions to promote the highest possible standards of conduct for airline pilots. Nearly all ALPA-represented pilot groups have Professional Standards Committees charged with maintaining the highest degree of professional conduct. In September 2009, ALPA released a white paper titled “Producing a Professional Airline Pilot” that frames the Association’s recommendations for candidate screening, hiring, training, and mentoring.

“When management supports professional standards committees, these groups can make a significant contribution to advancing safety at the airline and even establish best practices for the industry,” said Rice. “It is unfortunate that many airline managements still fail to seize the opportunity to work with ALPA on professional standards and other safety initiatives, but we’ve seen some positive developments in the past year.”

“Recently, Colgan Air has worked together with its pilots to address safety issues and capitalize on safety reporting programs as a way to identify and solve issues before accidents or incidents occur,” said Capt. Mark Segaloff, chairman of the Colgan pilots’ chapter of ALPA. “We are seeing signs of progress and look forward to future collaborative efforts at Colgan Air.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 53,000 pilots at 37 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at


CONTACT: Linda Shotwell, 703/481-4440 or