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Plane that crashed near Buffalo was on autopilot

Two people hold flowers at a road block near the crash site of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence Center, N.Y., Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009.

A federal aviation official says the plane that crashed into a house near Buffalo, killing 50 people, was on autopilot when it went down, a violation of airline policy.

Steve Chealander of the National Transportation Safety Board says Colgan Air recommends pilots fly manually in icy conditions. Pilots are required to do so in severe ice.

The pilot of doomed plane reported "significant" ice on his wings and windshield just before crashing Thursday night.

Colgan Air operates a fleet of 51 regional turboprops including Continental Connection, United Express and US Airways Express.

Chealander says the preliminary investigation indicates the autopilot was still on when the plane crashed.