Press Release

Hochul, Higgins, Slaughter, Reed, Schumer & Gillibrand Call On Attorney General to Investigate Colgan

Oct 29, 2011

WESTERN NEW YORK – Today, Representatives Kathy Hochul (NY-26), Brian Higgins (NY-27), Louise Slaughter (NY-28), and Tom Reed (NY-29), along with Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, called on U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate whether Colgan Airlines intentionally withheld emails from a federal agency during the investigation of the crash of the Continental Connection Flight 3407 in February 2009.  

“The people in my district experienced an unimaginable tragedy that took the lives of 50 of their loved ones,” said Congresswoman Hochul.  “The 3407 families deserve to know the truth, which is why we’re calling on Attorney General Holder to investigate whether Colgan and its parent company intentionally withheld key evidence during the NTSB inquiry.  We will not rest until we have all the answers.”

“In order for NTSB crash investigations to be thorough and productive there must be a confidence that all of the information is on the table,” said Congressman Higgins. “We’re not so sure that was the case with critical details pertaining to Flight 3407. The families and the flying public deserve no less than full and fair disclosure.”    

“We worked for years, hand in hand with the Flight 3407 families, to pass legislation to make sure pilots were qualified to be flying the planes we step into each and every day.  Our goal was to make sure that standards were set and a proper curriculum developed to ensure that pilots in every cockpit were trained properly.  Now we’re learning, more than two and a half years after the Flight 3407 disaster, that Colgan failed to share the emails that recently surfaced,” said Congresswoman Slaughter.  “All of this leaves me with haunting questions: what else don’t we know? How can we prevent another 3407 if Colgan doesn’t play straight?” 

“I am troubled to learn that vital information may have been withheld,” said Congressman Reed.  “The victims’ families deserve nothing less than a thorough investigation.”

“For far too long, the families of Flight 3407 victims have fought to get to the bottom of that tragic crash, and they deserve the full truth,” said Senator Schumer.  “The fact that relevant emails were not shared with NTSB during their initial investigation is very troubling and I am urging Attorney General Holder to open a criminal investigation to determine the truth.”  

“Families of the victims of Flight 3407 have been a constant presence in Washington, D.C., working to improve safety conditions so that others are spared the same loss they have had to endure. They deserve the full truth of what went wrong in the loss of their loved ones,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It is because of the tireless efforts of these families – their unwavering pursuit for justice – that we have taken some of the most significant steps in improving the safety of the nation’s aviation system in years. We need every answer to ensure we continue taking every necessary step to prevent these accidents, and save lives.”

Last week, emails were released between senior Colgan safety officials concerning the pilot of Continental Flight 3407, in which Colgan Air expressed serious doubts over the pilot’s qualifications.  These emails were never provided to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) during the initial investigations into the crash or produced during public hearings following the crash.  Even more troubling to the New York Members is that these emails appear to directly contradict statements made by those same Colgan officials just months later.

Below is a copy of the letter sent by Reps. Hochul, Higgins, Slaughter, and Reed and Senators Schumer and Gillibrand:

October 29, 2011

The Honorable Eric Holder

United States Attorney General

Department of Justice

950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington, DC 20530

Dear Attorney General Holder:

We write you today to express our strong concern over recently disclosed emails between senior Colgan Air safety officials concerning the pilot of Continental Connection Flight 3407, which crashed in Clarence Center, New York in February 2009 and claimed 50 lives.  These email conversations, in which Colgan expressed serious doubts over the pilot’s qualifications, were never provided to National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators or produced during public hearings following the crash.  Worse still, these communications appear to directly contradict statements made by those same Colgan officials just months later to the NTSB. 

The families of the victims of Flight 3407 have fought for a resolution to the safety issues brought to light by the crash, and they deserve no less.  We believe Colgan’s failure to release these emails was disrespectful to the families, irresponsible to the flying public, and possibly criminal.  Therefore, we request an investigation into whether Colgan’s actions constituted the intentional withholding of information sought by a federal agency and whether such actions violated federal law.  

We thank you for your attention to this important matter and look forward to your response.