Transcript: Pilot was torn before fatal plane crash

Transcript: Pilot was torn before fatal plane crash
Rebecca Shaw in her pilot's uniform
WASHINGTON (AP) - The co-pilot in February's airline crash in upstate New York complained to the flight's captain that she felt ill and would have skipped the flight but didn't want to pay for a hotel room, according to a new cockpit voice recorder transcript released Monday.

The extended transcript, released by the National Transportation Safety Board, shows pilot Marvin Renslow commiserated with First Officer Rebecca Shaw, but didn't suggest she pull out of the flight.

Federal Aviation Administration regulations say pilots should not fly if they're feeling sick. The captain is responsible for overseeing their crew.

The two conversed while Continental Connection Flight 3407 sat on the ground waiting for clearance to takeoff from Newark Liberty International Airport.

Shaw told Renslow that if she had felt as sick the day before when she was at home near Seattle, she wouldn't have commuted to Newark to make the flight.

"I'm ready to be in the hotel room," Shaw told Renslow after one of several sniffle sounds noted on the transcript. "This is one of those times that if I felt like this when I was at home there's no way I would have come all the way out here. But now that I'm out here."

"You might as well," Renslow responded.

"I mean if I call in sick now, I've got to put myself in a hotel room until I feel better," said Shaw, who also complained about her low salary. "We'll see how ... it feels flying. If the pressure's just too much I, you know, I could always call in tomorrow. At least I'm in a hotel on the company's buck, but we'll see. I'm pretty tough."

Renslow suggested to Shaw that she "kill it with, you know, a bunch of OJ or a bunch of vitamin C."

Shaw also complained about poor treatment by Colgan Air Inc. of Manassas, Va., which operated the flight for Continental Airlines. She said she earned only $15,800 the previous year and the airline was refusing to give her $200 in back pay she felt she was owed.

Flight 3407 crashed on Feb. 12 as the twin-engine turboprop began preparations for landing in Buffalo, killing all 49 people aboard and a man in a house below. Testimony at an NTSB hearing in May showed Renslow and Shaw made a series of critical errors leading up to the crash.

Shaw commuted the night before the crash from Seattle to Newark, N.J., to make the flight to Buffalo. Renslow, who was in the middle of a series of flights, lived near Tampa, Fla., but commuted to Newark, where he was based.

It's not clear where either pilot slept the night before the crash or how long they slept, but it appeared from testimony that they may have tried to nap in a crew lounge at the airport rather than pay for a hotel room. A fatigue expert testified that the pilots' judgment was likely impaired by fatigue.

Colgan spokesman Joe Williams said in a statement that the airline doesn't condone pilots flying when they are sick or fatigued.

"Every Colgan Air pilot has an absolute obligation as a professional to show up for work fit for duty," Williams said. "As is common in the airline industry, we have reserve pilots available in case they are not."

Revelations about the pilots' behavior, low pay and commuting practices sparked a backlash against low pilot pay and working conditions in the regional airline industry. Two congressional committee have held hearings on safety issues that have arisen from NTSB's investigation of the crash. FAA is holding a series of industry workshops around the country aimed at beefing up regional airline safety. The accident also has prompted the agency to revisit the long festering issue of whether regulations on how many hours pilots can be required to work before they are given rest should be updated to reflect modern fatigue research.

On Tuesday, Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., chairman of the aviation subcommittee, is expected to offer a proposal to address some of the fatigue, pay, and other issues that pilots complain are undermining safety.