Accidents Involving Continental Airlines

Continental Connection Flight 3407 — On February 12, 2009, just minutes prior to landing, Continental Connection Flight 3407 (operated by Colgan Air) plunged from the sky and crashed into a home at Clarence Center, New York. All 49 people aboard and one person in the home perished in the accident. Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, P.C. handled wrongful death litigation arising out of the crash of Flight 3407.

A Snapshot of Continental Airlines, Inc.

Continental Airlines, Inc. was headquartered in Houston, Texas, and had hubs in New York, Cleveland, Houston, and Guam. The airline began flying from El Paso, Texas to Pueblo, Colorado in July 1934 as Varney Speed Lines. In 1937, it changed its name to Continental Airlines and relocated its corporate headquarters to Houston, Texas in 1982 after merging with Texas International.

Continental Airlines was a member of the Star Alliance network and operated in North America, Central America, Asia, and Europe. It had U.S. alliances with Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, Hawaiian Airlines, Island Air, American Eagle (on select West Coast flights), Amtrak (on select trains in the Northeast U.S.), Continental Express and Continental Connection. Its international alliances included Aerorepublica, Emirates, EVA Air, Kingfisher, the SNCF French Rail and Virgin Atlantic.

Regional flights were operated by Continental Connection and Continental Express, under code-share agreement with Continental Airlines. Continental Connection was operated by CommutAir, Colgan Air, Cape Air and Gulfstream International Airlines. Continental Express is operated by Chautauqua Airlines and ExpressJet Airlines.

Continental operated more than 2,800 daily flights and serves 135 domestic and 132 international destinations. It employed over 45,000 employees and has annual earnings of over $3.5 billion.

In 2010, Continental Airlines was acquired by United Airlines. All previous Continental flights now operate under the United Airlines name.

Continental Airlines Accident and Incident History

The following is a summary of the major accidents and incidents of Continental Airlines, including those involving Continental Express and Continental Connection:

Continental Connection Flight 3407/Colgan Air, Clarence Center, NY, February 12, 2009

Continental Airlines Flight 1404, Denver, CO, December 20, 2008

Continental Airlines Flight 475, Guadalajara, Mexico, September 16, 1998

Continental Airlines Flight 75, inflight mishap, Los Angeles to Hawaii, May 21, 1998

Continental Airlines Flight 1943, Houston, TX, February 19, 1996

Continental Airlines Flight 588, Denver, CO, April 27, 1993

Continental Express Flight 2574, Eagle Lake, TX, September 11, 1991

Continental Express Flight 2286, Durango, CO, January 19, 1988

Continental Airlines Flight 1713, Denver, CO, November 15, 1987

Continental Airlines Flight 603, Los Angeles, CA, March 1, 1978

Continental Airlines Flight 12, Kansas City, MO, July 1, 1965

Continental Airlines Flight 290, Kansas City, MO, January 28, 1963

Continental Airlines Flight 11, Unionville, MO, May 22, 1962

Continental Airlines Accidents and Incidents Handled by Baum Hedlund:

Baum Hedlund has handled some of the largest Continental Airlines accidents, including:

Continental Connection Flight 3407/Colgan Air, Clarence Center, NY, February 12, 2009 (1 passenger represented)

Continental Airlines Flight 1404, Denver, CO, December 20, 2008 (7 passengers represented)

Continental Airlines Flight 75, inflight mishap, Los Angeles to Hawaii, May 21, 1998 (6 passengers represented)
Continental Airlines Flight 75, a McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft, was en-route from Los Angeles, California to Honolulu, Hawaii on May 21, 1998 when it experienced an unexpected pitch-up. The aircraft was climbing in smooth air with the No. 1 autopilot engaged when it began a sudden and hard un-commanded pull up. The captain reported that he immediately grabbed the control yoke and disengaged the autopilot in order to level the aircraft. During the pull up, and subsequent corrections by the pilot, nine people were injured, four seriously. There were 285 passengers, 10 flight attendants, and 3 cockpit crew onboard. The aircraft was not damaged.

The seat belt sign was reported to be on at the time of the upset. During the event, the aircraft pulled up suddenly, causing all who were not buckled-up to be thrown to the floor. There were a few more reversals of force as the pilot attempted to gain control of the aircraft. These forces caused three flight attendants and one passenger, who was in the aft lavatory at the time, to be bounced up into the ceiling and then slammed back against the floor. A flight attendant said that what followed was a ‘roller coaster’ type of movement. The captain later reported that during the upset the aircraft had gained 1,200 feet in altitude and lost 30 knots of airspeed before he was able to disconnect the autopilot and regain control. After the aircraft had been steadied, a few doctors on board attended to the wounded as the crew turned the aircraft back towards Los Angeles where it was taken out of service for detailed examination.

Following an investigation of the incident and an examination of the aircraft, the National Transportation Safety Board found that a contaminated strain gage lead to the “excessive autopilot initiated elevator movement, and excessive elevator actuation during recovery by the captain.” Investigators also reviewed maintenance records for the year preceding the accident and found over 50 discrepancies for autopilot systems. One item stated “A/C [aircraft] has a long history of pitch oscillations, both autopilots.” Investigators then discovered that this particular aircraft was involved in a similar accident in 1986, which resulted in one injury.

According to the NTSB, post-accident testing of the first officer’s control wheel sensor unit showed an out of tolerance and drifting null signal for the strain gage which provides pitch signal input to the No. 1 autopilot. Analysis showed the material was a silver based conductive substance, lying below a factory applied sealing layer, which was introduced during manufacture. The solder on the lugs and the wire used between the lugs and terminals was found not to be consistent with the manufacturer’s specifications.

In addition, the NTSB found that the failure of the airplane maintenance department to diagnose and correct these historical problems with the autopilot systems led to the in-flight disturbance. Also at fault, said the investigators, was the manufacturer’s inadequate quality assurance program.

Baum Hedlund represented six flight attendants from this accident.

Continental Airlines Flight 588, Denver, CO, April 27, 1993 (1 passenger represented)
On April 27, 1993, Continental Airlines Flight 588, a McDonnell Douglas DC-9-82, experienced an extremely rough landing at Stapleton International Airport in Denver, Colorado, resulting in two injuries and substantial aircraft damage. It was a scheduled flight from San Francisco, California. As it approached the runway, the aircraft landed on a steep angle then leveled and hit the runway, sliding to a stop on its right belly and right wing.

After a detailed investigation of the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board determined that immediately following touchdown, a landing gear vibration occurred which led to a collapse of the right main landing gear. The right wing on the aircraft then hit the runway and the airplane skidded to a stop. During the following emergency evacuation, two passengers were injured.

The NTSB was unable to explain the vibration that led to the collapse of the right gear but did determine that threads on the right gear apex bolt failed. The NTSB also stated that a factor that lead to the crash was the failure of the pilot in command to ensure deployment of the ground spoilers.

Baum Hedlund represented one of the passengers who suffered emotional and physical injuries during this frightening accident.

Continental Express Flight 2286, Durango, CO, January 19, 1988 (1 passenger represented)
Captain of Doomed Flight Used Cocaine: Continental Express Flight 2286, traveling from Denver to Durango, Colorado on January 19, 1988, was beginning its decent when it suddenly went below the safe minimum decent altitude near Bayfield, Colorado. The plane crashed into the terrain, killing nine on board. Eight others survived, one with serious injuries.

When the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) inspected the aircraft, a Fairchild Metro III, SA227 AC, as part of its investigation, they found no evidence of pre-impact failures or system malfunctions. As the investigation intensified, it became clear that the Captain’s reckless behavior and poor decision making was the ultimate cause of the fatal crash.

The NTSB discovered that it was the copilot, not the captain, who had control of the aircraft during its final approach. The evidence also showed that the captain had used cocaine before the flight which negatively affected his ability to monitor the already unstable approach conducted by the copilot. The NTSB concluded that the crash was a direct result of the captain’s carelessness, drug use, and inadequate supervision.

Records of both the captain and copilot revealed prior traffic violations, and in the case of the captain, a previous aircraft accident. This brought to light the negligence of Continental Express and their inability to hire reliable pilots.

Baum Hedlund held Continental Express accountable for its negligence and lack of oversight when they represented the family of one of the victim’s killed in this crash.

From The Denver Post

The pilots of a Continental Express commuter airplane that crashed near Durango Tuesday night may have been attempting an emergency landing, a federal investigator said Wednesday.

Nine of 17 people aboard the aircraft were killed. Three remained hospitalized Wednesday night, and five had been treated and released.

The aircraft, en route from Denver to Durango, crashed about 7:25 p.m., about 15 miles east of Durango in the Gem Village area.

Ruts in the snow show the plane touched down in an area covered by oak scrubs, its landing gear was sheared off and it slid from 150 to 200 yards before twisting and stopping, said an investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board.

View additional plane crash and aviation accidents handled by Baum Hedlund: Commercial Airline Crashes Case History

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