Buffalo, NYOfficials have released information indicating that the plane involved in the fatal plane crash near Buffalo was on autopilot when the crash occurred. If the plane was on autopilot, the pilot may have been in violation of federal safety recommendations concerning the use of autopilot in icy conditions. Furthermore, the airline itself has a policy for flying in icy conditions.
According to a member of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), the company operating the flight recommends that pilots in icy conditions fly their plane manually. In severe ice, that recommendation becomes a requirement. Flying the plane manually allows the pilot to detect problems more quickly than the autopilot would detect them.
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Early indications are that the plane was still on autopilot when it crashed, killing all 49 people on board and 1 on the ground. Just prior to the crash, the flight crew discussed significant ice buildup on the plane's wings and windshield. Although the plane's deicing equipment was turned on, it is not known when the deicing system was activated. If the system was activated too late (that is, if the plane already had too much ice and was too low) then the de-icing boots may not have helped.
Officials and eyewitnesses are also now indicating that, rather than nosediving into the house, the plane actually landed in a belly-flop position, facing the opposite direction than it should have been. A "belly-flop" position suggests that the plane may have suffered a sudden loss of lift.
Investigators continue to examine the wreckage to determine what caused this tragic incident.