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Flight 3407: Who's to blame?

   WASHINGTON — The first piece of advice I got from other reporters and aviation experts when I inquired about covering a plane crash was: "Watch out for people throwing sand in your eyes."

   Plane crashes are not just massive tragedies, they said. They're potential financial disasters for airlines and airplane manufacturers, who will do their utmost to minimize their role in any crash in hopes of minimizing their liability.

   Federal officials might throw sand in your eyes, too, if it turns out that lax federal regulations may have played a role in the crash as well, I was told.

   Three months after the crash of Flight 3407, the National Transportation Safety Board will begin three days of hearings aimed at clearing away whatever sand that might have been tossed in the past three months.

   I thought of that sand-in-the-eyes metaphor again this weekend when a friend said to me: "This was all the pilot's fault, right?"

   Well, is it, really, when there are indications that the pilot may have been tired, and that he may not have been properly trained?

   We'll know more starting today, but I wonder if you think that the question my friend asked might have been a sand-induced question.

   — Jerry Zremski

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