CLARENCE — After a commuter flight fell from the sky onto a Western New York home five years ago, the relatives of the passengers killed were too grief-stricken to appreciate the outpouring of support they received from strangers.
At Wednesday's memorial service on the anniversary of the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407, the families plan to thank those who supported them — and vow to continue their fight to make air travel safer.
"There have been a multitude of people that have helped us and we just want to take some time to thank them," said Marilyn Kausner, whose 24-year-old daughter, Elly Kausner, was on her way home for a visit from law school when the plane experienced an aerodynamic stall and dropped onto a house five miles short of Buffalo Niagara International Airport. All 49 people aboard and a man in the house were killed.
The passengers' families have been helping the community, too, since the Feb. 12, 2009, crash — most notably by successfully lobbying for changes meant to raise the safety level of regional carriers to that of major airlines.
"It's the right thing to do," said Karen Eckert, who with her sister, Susan Bourque, have made more than 60 trips to Washington as part of a core group of activist relatives.
Their efforts have led to the most substantial pilot training requirements in two decades. Among them, airlines will have to provide flight simulator training for pilots on how to deal with a stall. The group also has secured changes in flight and rest period rules to prevent fatigue and has ensured that ticket sellers disclose the regional carrier operating a flight at the time of purchase.
Flight 3407 was operated out of Newark, N.J., for Continental by now-defunct regional carrier Colgan Air and by a pilot and first officer who, the families would learn, had been inadequately trained on how to deal with a stall and were flying on little rest.