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Icying could be cause of fatal plane crash in Buffalo

A Continental plane that crashed Thursday night near Buffalo, New York, killing 50 people, could have been caused by severe icing the New York Times and the New York Daily News reported.

Steve Chealander of the Nation Transportation Safety Board said that the crew reported icing on the windshield and wings and requested lower flying altitudes.

The pilot, Captain Marvin Renslow, 47 tried to abort the landing but then the plane experienced severe pitching and rolling. The plane later crashed into a house killing one occupant inside the house and all 49 people on board the plane.

The New York Daily News reported that a federal aviation official said that the plane may have been on auto pilot when it crashed.

Chealander said that manual flying is required in severe icing conditions, so if the plane had been on autopilot it could be a violation of airline policy.

William Voss said that ice, "can seriously distort the airflow over the surfaces, so if you don't keep the wings clean you could find yourself in a situation where ... suddenly the aircraft decides to quit flying (New York Daily News)."

Chealander said that the de-icing system was on before the crew started discussing the icing problems.

Two other people were inside the house at the time of the crash, a 57-year-old woman and her 22-year-old daughter, and they have been released from the hospital (New York Times).

New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/13/nyregion/13crash.html?pagewanted=1&sq=plane%20crash&st=cse&scp=4

New York Daily News: http://www.nydailynews.com/news/us_world/2009/02/15/2009-02-15_pilot_error_plane_that_crashed_near_buff-1.html