Transcript of air traffic control communications

February 13, 2009 12:40:42 PM PST
The pilot of a doomed commuter plane didn't report any trouble to air traffic control before it crashed outside Buffalo, N.Y., but air traffic controllers quickly established that ice was building up on nearby planes also converging to land there. A recording of air traffic control radio transmissions Thursday night shows that a tower controller at Buffalo and one at Buffalo's Terminal Radar Approach Control center (TRACON) tried repeatedly but unsuccessfully to raise Continental Connection Flight 3407 just after the Bombardier Dash 8-Q400 twin turboprop operated by Colgan Air was handed off from the TRACON to the tower for landing at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. The TRACON is located several floors below the tower controller at the airport.

In the recording, available at, the controllers refer to the commuter plane as Colgan 3407 and as a Dash-8. The crash occurred about 10:20 p.m. EST. The times of the voice transmissions below are approximate.

10:15:10 - ... 3407. Three miles from (unintelligible). Maintain 2,300 until (unintelligible) Runway 23.

10:15:17 - (Female voice on 3407 acknowledges).

10:16:02 - Colgan 3407 contact tower (unintelligible). Have a good night.

10:16:07 - (calm female voice) 3407. (This appears to be the handoff of 3407 from the TRACON controller to the tower controller for landing.) 10:17:04 - Colgan 3407. Approach. (The TRACON tries to raise the plane.) 10:17:20 - Colgan 3407. Buffalo. (The Buffalo tower tries to raise the plane.) 10:17:25 - Colgan 3407. Approach.

10:17:33 - Delta 1998 look out your right side about five miles for a Dash-8. It should be about 2,300 (feet). Do you see anything there?

10:17:41 - Negative. Delta 1998. ...

10:17:50 - Colgan 3407. Buffalo.


10:20:11 - Colgan 3407. Buffalo tower. How do you hear?


10:20:28 - (Unintelligible). Ground communication, you need to talk to somebody at least five miles northeast. Possibly Clarence.

That area right in there. Akron area. Either state police or sheriff's department. You need to find out if anything is on the ground. This aircraft was five miles out and all of a sudden we have no response from that aircraft.

10:20:46 - All I can tell you is that an aircraft (was) over the marker and we're not talking to them now.

10:21:03 - Delta 1998. You got any icing where you're at?

10:21:06 - We picked it up on the way down, but I don't think we're building any more here. But about 6,500 down to about 3,500 maybe.


10:21:46 - (Unintelligible). I'll have to get right back to you.

Apparently we have an emergency and I'll get back to you as soon as I can.


10:23:57 - All aircraft this frequency: We did have a Dash-8 over the marker that didn't make the airport. He appears to be about five miles away from the airport. Delta 1998, I'm gonna bring you in ...

10:25:00 - You got any kind of icing or anything there?

10:25:05 - It doesn't appear to be building. We got about a half inch, well, about a quarter inch on us from the descent that has remained with us all the time.

... (Controller alters the path of Cactus 1452.) 10:25:20 - (Cactus 1452 acknowledges) And we've been picking up rime ice here for the last, oh, 10 minutes.

10:25:25--Standby on the rime ice report. (Controller then moves another plane) 10:25:38 - Who was that?

10:25:42 - 52 sir. We've been getting ice ever since 20 miles south of the airport.

10:25:46 - Cactus 1452. OK. If you could, let me know when you get out of the icing. Aircraft coming up from the south wasn't reporting that earlier.


10:27:00 - (Cactus 1452 pilot acknowledges order.) And ice is starting to come off the windscreen now.

10:27:08 - Any kind of information we could get we'd appreciate.

10:27:11 - So right now at 2,300 it seems pretty clear for you.

10:27:17 - The ice is starting to dissipate.

10:27:19 - Thank you.

10:27:21 - 7-35-12. If you're picking up any ice you should be getting out of it shortly. Can you descend and maintain 2,300?


10:28:05 - Cactus 1452. Thanks for your help. I appreciate it.

Contact tower 1-2-0.5.

10:28:11 - Fine for Cactus. Did you find Colgan?

10:28:15 - Unfortunately. They said he went down about right over the marker clump.


10:29:18 - Tower. Cactus 1452 is coming up on the clump. And, uh, we saw the ground. You guys know what's going on?

10:29:24 - Cactus 1452. Buffalo tower. Winds at 2-6-0 at 1-4 (unintelligible) clear to land. Yes sir, we are aware.




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