BLABBING THEIR WAY TO ICY DOOM
CREW KEPT UP CHAT AMID WING FREEZE
BLUNDERS AND PANIC OVER BUFFALO

The two pilots flying a doomed Buffalo-bound commuter plane were so busy flirting and chatting about their lives, relationships and career goals that when ice built up on their wings and windshield, it became just another topic of conversation.

“I’ve never seen icing conditions. I’ve never de-iced,” said First Officer Rebecca Shaw, 24, according to a transcript released yesterday at a hearing by the National Transportation Safety Board.

She said she was happy to be second in command on the Dash 8 turboprop because she was glad “I don’t have to . . . make those kind of calls. You know, I’d have freaked out. I’d have, like, seen this much ice and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh. We’re going to crash.’ “

At that point, the plane was at 2,300 feet and only minutes from disaster.

The pilot, Capt. Marvin Renslow, 47, said, “That’s the most [ice] I’ve seen on the leading edges [of the wings] in a long time. In a while, anyway, I should say.”

Then, he continued to regale her with tales from his short, undistinguished, career during the Newark-to-Buffalo Continental Connection Flight 3407 on Feb. 12.

GLARING SIGNS SMALL TALK BECAME BIG PROBLEM

Renslow and First Officer Rebecca Shaw did not give me the impression that they followed what we consider acceptable sterile cockpit guidelines below 10,000 feet.

We have that rule so that pilots stay focused and pay attention to the aircraft. The only things the crew should discuss are the tasks at hand, radio calls and checklist items. Nothing extraneous.

So when Renslow and Shaw both remark on the amount of ice buildup at 4,000 feet, they should have piped down with the small talk.

Renslow said that it was the most ice he had seen in a long time. Instead of letting that fact jerk him to attention, he kept up the banter with Shaw.

During the final approach, with the flaps up and landing checklist complete, Renslow is still talking about past flights. He should have been 100 percent focused on the present.

Because it’s hypothetically possible for a man and a woman to work together without distracting each other, or for a woman to be competent despite the special privilege of being allowed to sue her way into places where she doesn’t belong, we’re supposed to risk our lives on the unlikely possibility that all of them will actually do so in all cases.

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