The commuter plane that crashed into a home near Buffalo was on autopilot when it went down in icy weather, indicating that the pilot may have violated federal safety recommendations and the airline's own policy for flying in such conditions, a federal official said Sunday.
Steve Chealander, a National Transportation Safety Board member, said the company that operated the flight recommends pilots fly manually in icy conditions. Pilots are required to do so in severe ice.
"You may be able in a manual mode to sense something sooner than the autopilot can sense it," Chealander told The Associated Press in an interview, explaining why the NTSB also recommends that pilots disengage the autopilot in icy conditions.
The preliminary investigation indicates the autopilot was still on when the plane crashed, he said. That has not been confirmed by information from the plane's flight data recorder.