Former Colgan POI and Q400 Ops

Amish RakeFight

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http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/04/nyregion/04colgan.html?hp

Inspector Predicted Problems a Year Before Buffalo Crash
By MATTHEW L. WALD

WASHINGTON — More than a year before a twin-engine turboprop flown by Colgan Air crashed on approach to Buffalo, a Federal Aviation Administration inspector complained to his superiors about the rocky start the airline was having with that model.

The inspector, Christopher J. Monteleon, was in the cockpit when the airline got its first such plane, a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400, and put it through a series of test flights.

Three times, he said, the pilots flew the airplane faster than the manufacturer’s specifications allowed, but they initially refused to report this and have the plane inspected for damage. They flew with a broken radio and did not want to write that up in the maintenance log, as the rules require, he said, because it might delay the next test flight. And they tried three approaches to the airport in Charleston, W. Va., and “botched” all of them, failing to get the plane at an appropriate altitude, on the right path and at the right speed for landing.

“They got confused,” Mr. Monteleon said in a recent interview, as he recalled the test flights in January 2008.

But when he reported problems to his F.A.A. superiors, he was suspended from important portions of his job overseeing Colgan’s acquisition of the Dash 8 and given a desk job, he said. Mr. Monteleon has had other run-ins with his bosses, and is currently on paid leave because, he said, managers accused him of menacing an agency lawyer.

Mr. Monteleon’s complaints about Colgan, which he repeated three months later to the Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency established to hear whistle-blower complaints, foreshadowed some of the issues that emerged 13 months later at the National Transportation Safety Board hearings on the crash near Buffalo, on Feb. 12, 2009. Colgan crews were flying fatigued, Mr. Monteleon said, and were not fully focused on the tasks in front of them, two factors apparently in play in the Buffalo crash. All 49 people on board the flight, which took off from Newark, were killed, along with one man on the ground.

While the safety board usually takes about a year to issue a final report on crashes like the one in Buffalo, its hearings in early May made it clear that the quality of the F.A.A.’s regulation of Colgan was one of the areas under investigation.

The F.A.A. insists that it took Mr. Monteleon seriously in the months before the crash.

A spokeswoman for the F.A.A., Laura J. Brown, said that after Mr. Monteleon made his allegations, the agency called in a team made up of inspectors from around the country, who could review the issues with an impartial eye. They recommended some changes in F.A.A. procedures, she said, which were carried out, but did not find any “major regulatory issues.”

Mr. Monteleon was not punished, she said, and privacy laws limited what she could say about “personnel issues.”

A spokesman for Colgan, Joe F. Williams, said, “Mr. Monteleon’s claims against us are baseless.”

“Colgan met or exceeded every single F.A.A. requirement necessary to add the Q400 to its fleet prior to beginning operations,” he said.

The Office of Special Counsel does not settle safety issues but sends them on to the inspector general of the department in question if it finds a “substantial likelihood” that that they are at least partly accurate. The office did send Mr. Monteleon’s complaint to the inspector general of the Transportation Department, the parent agency of the F.A.A., but the inspector general’s office has not completed its investigation.

The claims by Mr. Monteleon, 64, a 40-year veteran of the aviation industry who joined the F.A.A. in 1997, rely mostly on documents he himself wrote when the events occurred, and his memory. Thus they are difficult for outsiders to evaluate. But they echo a previous case of inspectors who were penalized by their supervisors who overruled them in favor of the airline.

In 2008, two F.A.A. inspectors assigned to Southwest Airlines testified before Congress that their managers had let Southwest fly its Boeing 737’s without inspections for cracks that the safety agency required. Office managers referred to the airline as the regulatory agency’s “customer.” Top F.A.A. officials eventually conceded that the inspectors were right and the middle managers were wrong.

Mr. Monteleon said his supervisors were too “cozy” with Colgan, and eager to help it keep its schedule; the airline had a contract with Continental Airlines to begin flights in the Dash 8 plane — flying as Continental Express — in a little over a month after it acquired its first plane of that type.

In one memo retained by Mr. Monteleon, his manager indicates that he was reassigned because of his “conduct during a work-related duty” and because “the matter also required management to immediately respond to the operator’s scheduling needs.” The operator was Colgan.

Mr. Monteleon’s lawyer, Debra S. Katz, said the most recent charge against Mr. Monteleon, of menacing an F.A.A. lawyer, was trumped up as a way to get rid of him. “The F.A.A. seems bent on pushing Chris out in retaliation for his disclosures,” she said. She said she hoped the Office of Special Counsel would order his re-instatement.

His complaints — and his troubles — did not begin with Colgan’s handling of the Dash 8. Earlier, he had a bigger job supervising Colgan, as the principal operations inspector. But, he said, after he observed violations and deficiencies in crew training, crew fatigue and other problems, he tried to bring a case against the airline and was blocked by his F.A.A. managers. As punishment, he said, he was demoted. He then agreed to be transferred to the Office of Runway Safety, which was in charge of collecting and analyzing data about incidents in which planes came too close to each other on the ground.

When he got there, he complained that the office was using skewed methodology to understate the severity of safety concerns. He said a top F.A.A. safety official testified before Congress in April 2008, and said that the agency was making progress on improving runway safety, but, Mr. Monteleon said, the testimony was based on inaccurate statistics.

This has not been verified, either, but a 2007 report by the Government Accountability Office does note that the F.A.A. found problems itself with its 2006 runway incursion data.
 

livin'thesim

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If nothing else, this will certainly increase the complexity of the civil suits that are coming.

Everyone loves a smoking gun, whether or not the allegations are true.
 
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30West

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@8000
Enter MISTER Mary Schiavo...
 

dispatchguy

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I want some worthless fed head (arent they all) on a silver platter!
 

DashTrash400

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While there isn't any shortage of worthless feds, this guy doesn't sound like one of them. His superiors who took umbrage to a POI actually being concerned about safety issues that, horrors, might cost money to correct...well, they sound pretty worthless in a way pretty consistent with the FAA's general worthlessness.
 

wmuflyguy

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While there isn't any shortage of worthless feds, this guy doesn't sound like one of them. His superiors who took umbrage to a POI actually being concerned about safety issues that, horrors, might cost money to correct...well, they sound pretty worthless in a way pretty consistent with the FAA's general worthlessness.
It reminds me of a Homer Simpson quote when he is looking at home security.

Salesman: Surely you can't put a price on your family's lives?
Homer: I wouldn't have thought so either, but here we are.
 

Raoul Duke

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this guy sounds like a typical under performer with a chip on his shoulder. I hope his termination is upheld
 

ImbracableCrunk

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this guy sounds like a typical under performer with a chip on his shoulder. I hope his termination is upheld
And you're basing that on what, exactly?
 

Kaman

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Anyone that doesn't think that the FAA is just as susceptible to corruption as any other government organization is very naive. This accident speaks volumes for the dirty secret that the FAA and industry have been complicit in for years. The concept of a "single level of safety" is an absolute myth, and CJ3407 is a classic example of the flying public getting exactly what they paid for. Not meaning to sound callous, a friend of mine riding in the back was killed on that airplane. However, it is the truth whether any government or airline official will admit it or not.
 

pa31350pilot

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Regardless of what comes out of these allegations, I do believe that a conflict of intrest exists since Chuck Colgan is a Senator. Even though the FAA is it's own agency, the government is a good ole boy club.....people know people who know people and so on and so on.
 

vectorvictor

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Lifer

Wow! What a great tie!

Three words...

Unemployed
Desperate
Fabricating


The overspeed "events" involved exceeding VMO by a few knots and setting of the ticker. Something none of us have ever done before; especially in a new airplane.

Looking up or up and to the left during a conversation is a good tell that someone is lying or searching for facts.

VV
 

~~~^~~~

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Nobody likes a Fed to go too far. But in the case of this Colgan crash it does appear there were problems with training and possibly fatigue.

"Fatigue" is a fighting word around most regional airline management. If this Fed raised that issue, or issues regarding Certification of a new type which would push the schedule back, I can see him triggering a political grenade.

Who knows if he reached too far? We do know that somebody did not reach quite far enough.

The Fed does not state that he was pursuing crew violations or the operator's certificate. At the airline I flew for the operator was happy to throw a Captain under the regulatory bus while they kept their operator's certificate clean. I'm guessing this guy went after deficiencies in the program (which is the way it should be done to promote safety IMHO) and got political retribution. He also might have been an "AH" about it - that's what it looks like on a Mach 3 pass from 60,000 feet.
 
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sweptback

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The overspeed "events" involved exceeding VMO by a few knots and setting of the ticker. Something none of us have ever done before; especially in a new airplane.
The article says the Fed was on the jumpseat during the "overspeed" -- I assume that is is as minor as you say. If company policy was to write up such events in the maintenance log, who wouldn't, especially with a Fed watching over your shoulder?
 

sweptback

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The Fed does not state that he was pursuing crew violations or the operator's certificate. At the airline I flew for the operator was happy to throw a Captain under the regulatory bus while they kept their operator's certificate clean. I'm guessing this guy went after deficiencies in the program (which is the way it should be done to promote safety IMHO) and got political retribution. He also might have been an "AH" about it - that's what it looks like on a Mach 3 pass from 60,000 feet.
I think any airline would do that, given the option. After all, a pilot certificate is worth less than an air carrier certificate. That doesn't make it right, but you know what the management choice would be.

This is why programs such as ASAP are so essential. ASAP has had a pretty smooth rollout at my airline, and if anything, the company has erred on the side of protecting the pilots. For me, seeing the results of the old management team, that blows my mind. And it's a great thing.

We pilots often forget it, but ASAP is not necessarily just a get-out-of-jail free card for pilots (and other participating certificate holders). It's a safety trending program, and if more of these events were submitted, maybe Colgan would have picked up on the trend before the big one hit.
 

labbats

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I'm certain that a bigger government is the answer. If only we had a bloated stimulus package to force that issue....

In all seriousness though, it's far easier to shut up and let things happen than to speak up and make waves. At least one FAA guy had the stones to do what's right regardless of the obvious retribution. How many of your airline's inspector's would have done the same?
 

Godfather

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Ol' Wrong Way Monteleon. This is the same guy that when he flew at CCAir as a shorts Captain, flew into the wrong airport at night back in the 80's then had the nerve to takeoff again with notfying dispatch or getting a clearance. Good thing the fields were non-controlled airports. His FO kept telling him that he was on final for the wrong airport repeatedly. He told his FO to just shut up and let him land that he was the Captain. Then when Wrong Way realized what he done, he took off again and landed at the right airport. Never told dispatch and never apoligized to the passengers. Needless to say, he was fired for that. FO was not reprimanded but was promoted to the left seat.

But he was hired by the FAA. Wrong Way needs to learn to play ball with the big dogs or you will get burned. He was an incompetant Inspector. He screwed the Ops Manual so bad at Colgan, it will take years to fix it. Not to mention the cost of printing up all those revisions he wanted.
 
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Smarta$$

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Your right, there was obliously nothing at colgan to be concerned about? He may be imperfect, but nothing I have ever heard or seen from colgan or pinnacle management makes me think safety. And you should not be expected to "play ball with the big boys" if you have safety concerns. It says alot about the safety culture of your airline to even say that.
 
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