As I have been (casually) following the news about the crash of Continental Flight 3407 on Feb. 12, I accepted on face value the general media consensus that it was most likely due to the inexperience of the pilots, and for the most part I think that's correct.
For example, the pilot had not been trained about what to do in a stall and what the signs were in that particular aircraft. The co-pilot apparently hadn't ever seen icing on wings in flight before.
But, when I heard about the pay the co-pilot was getting, the fact that she was sick, AND the circumstances of her employment with the airline, it was clear this was just an accident waiting to happen.
Back when I worked for a puddle-jumper airline, I was shocked when I found out how hard they worked the pilots and how little rest they were allowed between flights. On the amount of sleep they sometimes got - after being on shift for quite a few days on end - you wouldn't want these folks to pop open a twist-off beer for ya, let alone rocket your ass into the frozen, wind-torn sky in a plastic bottle fitted with wings and half-filled with explosive fuel.
When you put someone in that kind of a circumstance, pay them poorly, train them even worse, and expose them to schedules and working conditions that are essentially illegal in the manufacturing sector, it's bound to result in exactly what happened. Someone like an airline pilot should be aggressively groomed and trained, not treated like a temp whose primary duty is filing, where only fingers and a basic grasp of the alphabet are required.
From this article (read the whole thing, it's gripping), here are part of the details of how the co-pilot was paid and what her conditions were:
Shaw, 24, flew 774 hours in her first year at Colgan. Roger Cox, a safety board aviation safety expert, said she earned $21 an hour, meaning that she would have been paid about $16,254 that year. As a result, Shaw worked a second job in a Norfolk, Va., coffee shop when she started at Colgan, safety board witnesses said.
So, after handing folks their freakin' Venti's for a shift or two, she'd sleep on a chair in the pilot's lounge or on a plane, and then grab the controls of a FREAKIN' JET.
There are going to be a lot of corporate executives in hell, methinks.