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Families of victims of New York plane crash seek answers

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW: Airline says officers "did know what to do ... but did not do it"
  • Families of victims of February crash near Buffalo, New York, watch hearing
  • Safety board hears that pilot got no simulator training on one safety device
  • FAA doesn't require such training; airline says pilot had classroom training
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Margie Brandquist wears a framed photo of her sister, who died in a plane crash three months ago.

Flowers are left at a makeshift memorial near the site of a plane crash in Clarence Center, New York, in February.

Her sister, Mary Pettys, 51, was engaged to be married when her Continental Connection Flight 3407 went down in icy conditions near Buffalo, New York.

The flight, operated by regional carrier Colgan Air, plunged into a house in Clarence Center, killing all 49 people on board and one man in the house.

Brandquist is one of several of the victims' family members attending this week's National Transportation Safety Board hearing on Capitol Hill.

Brandquist wants to know why the pilot, who failed several flight tests before joining the airline, never received hands-on training with the emergency equipment that was activated before the crash.

"We put our lives in the hands of people that we assume that the [Federal Aviation Administration] and the airlines are properly training," she told CNN's Randi Kaye.

The safety board resumed its three-day hearing Wednesday. Video Watch hearing consider whether crash could have been avoided »

At Tuesday's hearing, Colgan Air acknowledged that Capt. Marvin Renslow never trained on the "stick pusher" emergency system in a flight simulator.

But in a written statement, the carrier said that both Renslow and First Officer Rebecca Shaw had received other specific training about how to handle situations like those that preceded the crash.

It said that the company provides FAA-approved ground training and that "Captain Renslow and First Officer Shaw had thorough initial and recurrent training" on how to handle a stall.

"Captain Renslow and First Officer Shaw did know what to do, had repeatedly demonstrated they knew what to do, but did not do it," the statement said. "We cannot speculate on why they did not use their training in dealing with the situation they faced."

Anne Marie Russo, whose daughter Madeline died in the crash, watched Tuesday's televised hearing at a hotel in Newark, New Jersey, with other families who lost loved ones on the flight.

"This should not have happened," she said. "These 50 people should be enjoying their life right now."

She said she believes that cost-cutting measures by airlines may have been a factor in the crash.

"Maybe the training has to be more safer, more satisfactory for the public," she said. "This is tragedy that happened to these 49, 50 people, it could happen to any one of us."

Dan Marzolf, who also lost a loved one in the crash, said the hearing was very technical, but he hopes "to get to some conclusions."

"I really do hope good will come from these meetings," he told CNN's affiliate in Buffalo, WGRZ.

On Tuesday, the safety board investigators released a transcript of the cockpit voice recording from moments before the crash. The last sounds heard were Shaw saying, "We're" and then screaming at 10:16 p.m.

Seconds earlier, Renslow said, "Jesus Christ" as a sound "similar to stick shaker," an emergency warning system, was heard, the transcript said. Renslow said, "We're down," and a thump was heard.

About five minutes before the crash, Shaw had shared with Renslow her fear of flying in icy conditions.

"I don't want to have to experience that and make those kinds of calls. You know, I'd've freaked out. I'd've had like seen this much ice and thought, 'oh, my gosh, we were going to crash,' " Shaw told Renslow.

The safety board's preliminary investigation determined that there was some ice accumulation on the Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 aircraft but that "icing had a minimal impact on the stall speed of the airplane."

At Tuesday's hearing, Colgan Air said Renslow, though not training physically on the "stick pusher," received more training on it than the law requires.

"In the ground school portion, it is covered," said Paul Pryor, head of Colgan Air's pilot training program.

Such training is not required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

"That's a significant problem," veteran pilot Douglas Moss said. Moss, an expert in stall recovery, believes that flight simulator practice with a stick pusher should be mandatory for aspiring pilots.

"It's similar to picking up and throwing a ground ball in baseball. You can study it academically all you want to, but you really need to develop the proficiency, the skill, the muscle memory required to do that," Moss said.

Since the accident, Colgan has added demonstrations of the technique on its flight simulator

"This is one of a number of additions that Colgan has made to its training and safety programs in the wake of the accident," the statement said.

Renslow had failed five pilot tests, known as check rides, three of which occurred before he joined the airline, Colgan Air said. Renslow had revealed only one of those failures to the airline, according to Colgan.

Wally Warner, a Bombardier test pilot who testified Tuesday, said he believes that the pilot could have overcome the stall that caused the crash.

"Obviously, the initial reaction to the stall warning was incorrect, and that set the course of action for what followed," Warner said.

CNN's Allan Chernoff contributed to this report.

All About Accidents and DisastersColgan Air Inc.U.S. National Transportation Safety Board

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