NTSB: Buffalo Plane Was on Autopilot

By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 15, 2009 1:25 PM CST
Worshipers hold hands during services at Clarence Center United Methodist Church in memory of the victims of Continental Flight 3407 Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009 in Clarence Center, N.Y.   (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
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(Newser) – A federal aviation official says the plane that crashed into a house near Buffalo, killing 50 people, was on autopilot when it went down, a possible violation of airline policy in icy weather. Steve Chealander of the National Transportation Safety Board says Colgan Air recommends pilots fly manually in icy conditions. Pilots are required to do so in severe ice.

Pilots of the doomed plane discussed "significant" ice buildup on their wings and windshield just before crashing Thursday night. Colgan Air operates a fleet of 51 regional turboprops including Continental Connection, United Express, and US Airways Express. Chealander says the preliminary investigation indicates the autopilot was still on when the plane crashed.