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LISTEN ON DEMAND: THIS AMERICAN LIFE tribute to the 10 killed in the Tops Market shootings.

Flight 3407 families recognized as champions of aviation safety

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Mike Desmond/WBFO
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The people who lost their lives in Continental Connection Flight 3407 were remembered in Clarence Center at 10:17 p.m Tuesday. Survivors, relatives and friends came to a memorial site to remember the 51 people killed in a place crash exactly ten years ago. The red-clad audience remembered the victims and speakers talked about how the victims' families fought back against the circumstances that led to two undertained, relatively young pilots being in the cockpit of regional carrier Colgan Air 3407, late that February night in 2009.

The plane stalled and landed on a home on Long Street. One man in that home and 50 on the plane died. The crash was ultimately blamed on pilot error.

The survivors visited Washington, DC numerous times and spearheaded a movement to improve airline safety rules. They then fought back against attempts to weaken those rules.

"That is the amazing grace that God gave you, the strength that God gave to you to get up and just fight another day. I saw you do it so often. You fought another day when others dealing with the same adversity and pain might have collapsed under the weight of their anguish," Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

Former National Transportation Safety Board Chair Deborah Hersman says the families never gave up.

"You kept the drum beat going and the pressure on, and you're still doing that. In the last ten years, we've witnessed the safest period in U.S. commercial aviation history and you should be very, very proud of your part in this tremendous accomplishment," Hersman said.

Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot of the emergency plane landing known as the "Miracle on the Hudson," echoed that sentiment, saying the survivor families made flying safer for everyone.

"Major regional airlines are taking an active role in nurturing their future airline pilots. New pilot mentoring programs are well underway. This year, I will actually have to undergo deep stall upset recognition and recovery training in May when I go to my recurrent training, specifically because of the work that you did in Washington, DC," Skiles said.

After the service in Zion Lutheran Church, a slow and silent crowd marched to the crash site, where a memorial now stands. Those in the crowd carried candles in the cold rain and looked at small, lit markers carrying the names of each victim.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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