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September 11, 2009 - FAA Criticizes Crew in Crash

The head of the Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday crew chatter before a plane crash in New York shows the importance of a "sterile cockpit."

FAA chief Randy Babbitt, speaking at a safety conference, contrasted the behavior of the crew of Colgan Air Flight 3407 with that of Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who landed a damaged plane down in the Hudson River, saving the lives of everyone on board.

"If we take the juxtaposition of the tapes of Captain Sullenberger landing in the Hudson and compare that against the Buffalo accident recently, one of those is textbook greatness, the other is a complete lack of attention to the basic details," Babbitt said at the annual FAA International Aviation Safety forum.

Under FAA rules, flight crews must maintain a "sterile cockpit" during takeoff and landing, meaning no conversation about anything except the flight. The Flight 3407 tapes indicate the pilot and co-pilot, both of them killed in the crash, were chatting as they approached the Buffalo airport.

"For all the flight crews and controllers in this room, I know that every one of them knows that the sterile cockpit can mean one thing and one thing only," Babbitt said.

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