Valley Pilot Flew Same Doomed Route

February 13, 2009 11:48:16 PM PST
Mark Pratter was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. He's flown the same Newark to Buffalo route flight 3407 was on when it crashed and burst into flames Thursday night. He said, "You know, it's a scary approach. And what you would see is snow coming down hard on the wings. Basically you would be coming down through clouds all the way to just before the plane was about to land. I'm lucky. I've flown in very bad weather conditions into that airport probably 100 times."The experience was so terrifying, to overcome his fear, he learned how to fly. News about the fiery accident that killed 50 people in his hometown hit hard. "I'm just sickened."

Pratter believes ice on the plane's wings is the deadly factor. "Everything that it looked like is that stalled, and that it nosedived.

But it was fast, that's the only merciful thing it was probably very quick." He showed us on a pilot's map just how close Continental flight 3407 was to Buffalo's airport before it went down. "They were on their way into this runway, just a few miles away."

Pratter has flown the same Q400 aircraft that went down and says it has a proven record of safely handling difficult weather conditions. "Something must have gone wrong with the de-icing system. All piloting involves decision making. There either was a decision that wasn't made that should have been made or there was a mechanical factor."

There are at least two crash victims with California ties. 28 year old Joseph Zuffoletto was a San Diego high school graduate. The off-duty pilot had just been promoted to captain. 62 year old Clay Yarber of Riverside was a Vietnam veteran who recently moved to southern California to help his son with his music career. Pratter said, "I can't imagine what the families are going through."

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