Buffalo Plane Crash

Obviously something that was supposed to work.didn’t. Ice seems most likely.


Correction below

How awful. We all fear plane crashes, probably because of the helplessness inerent in being an airline passenger. I feel horrible for the families of those lost tonight in Clarence Center.

It’s an area I know fairly well. I have flown in and out of Buffalo many times, often when the weather was horrendous. It’s also an aircraft type I’ve bounced around in between New Haven and Philly.

If I were to venture a guess at the cause of the crash it would be some sort of ice related problem. The DH-8 should be equipped to deal with ice build-up.

Obviously something that was supposed to work.didn’t. Ice seems most likely.

METAR for 9:54 PM EST:

KBUF 130254Z 24015G22KT 3SM -SN BR FEW011 BKN021 OVC027 01/M01 A2979 RMK AO2 SLP097 P0001 60004 T00061006 51015

Buffalo was reporting three miles visibility in light snow. The temperature was 34&#176. The plane would have popped out of the overcast at 2,700 feet, continuing through mostly cloudy skies until 2,100 feet. Even then there were scattered clouds to 1,100 feet. Wind was right down the runway and, though gusty, shouldn’t have been a factor.

Ice brings two problems. First, it’s heavy. Second, it totally changes the flying characteristics of the plane. Wings are shaped to fly, but ice changes that shape. The stall speed–the ‘stop flying’ speed–goes up.

At five miles out they were already slowing down. The last fix was 207 kts at 5,300 feet. The plane had descended 1,100 feet in the last minute and slowed by 24 kts. The aircraft was at its most susceptible.

Since I began this post I’ve been listening to the playback of Buffalo Approach. Unfortunately a few planes began reporting rime ice buildup after the Dash-8 went down.

Correction – The plane is actually a Q400 which is a ‘stretch’ DH8. They are similar, but different planes.

3 thoughts on “Buffalo Plane Crash”

  1. Amazing how in today’s age one can listen to the “archived” ATC recordings within hours (or even minutes) after an incident.

    I was up until 2am this morning (and I’m not a night owl like you!) taking in all the info from Twitter, the news, etc. I was blown away when around midnight, a fellow Twitterer posted the audio from BUF approach. It really put a more real and sad face to this for me since I heard the voice of those at the controls….

  2. This brings to a head many of the post Hudson River Miracle discussions regarding todays disappearing seasoned pilots. I had no idea my median office staff makes more than a new First Officer. Garbage collectors make more than the First Officer of this Flight 3407. The fact they went if from a half mile up withour declaring an emergency amazes as well. The airlines have been a mess for years, but until now I wasn’t afraid to fly. There must be something between the $370k pilot of yesteryear and the $37k First Officer of today. Public safety demands that.

  3. Geoff,

    I flew a Cessna 402 from Boston to Rockland Maine last night. It was snowing upon takeoff, as we set for takeoff the pilot aborted because of iceing. An hour later we boarded the same plane and made our way. Needless to say, a little unnerving. I have never flown in a plane that small!!!! There were 7 of us including the pilot.

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