SCHUMER, GILLIBRAND, HIGGINS, SLAUGHTER, COLLINS, REED JOIN FAMILIES OF FLIGHT 3407 TO LAUNCH PUSH TO PROTECT 3407-INSPIRED AVIATION SAFETY REGULATIONS AS PART OF UPCOMING FAA REAUTHORIZATION – RULES FAMILIES FOUGHT HARD FOR ARE AT RISK OF BEING ROLLED BA
Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as Representatives Brian Higgins, Louise Slaughter, Chris Collins and Tom Reed joined together in Washington, D.C., with the families of Flight 3407 to kick off their advocacy efforts around the upcoming FAA Reauthorization Bill. Together, they announced their push to make sure that the aviation safety regulations the families fought so hard to pass – including rules on pilot training and fatigue – are not rolled back or watered down as part of the reauthorization negotiations. The families of Flight 3407 made the trip to Washington one week in advance of the 6th anniversary of the tragic crash of Continental Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo, New York, which took the lives of all forty-nine on board as well as one man on the ground.
With this year’s upcoming reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), some regional airlines may look to use it as an opportunity to water down or roll back some of the most stringent and effective safety standards, including the requirement that commercial co-pilots have 1,500 hours of total flight time before being certified. The Western New York delegation members said that the families of Flight 3407 fought too hard for this pilot training rule, as well as many others, for their successful efforts to be undone. In honor of the six-year anniversary of the crash, Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Slaughter, Collins and Reed all joined together with the families of Flight 3407 in Washington to push back against any and all efforts in Congress to scale back the flight safety rules.
“In the wake of the crash of Flight 3407, the families of those who were tragically lost advocated tirelessly to make some of the most important aviation safety regulations this country has ever seen a reality. And after all of the hard work that went into passing these new safety standards, it is unthinkable that some in the aviation industry would even consider trying to scale back these safety regulations. It was unacceptable in 2010—when we passed this legislation—that a passenger on a regional carrier could fly in less-capable hands than a passenger on a larger commercial carrier, and it is still unacceptable today,” said Senator Schumer. “Watering down or rolling back these standards would be a dagger to the hearts of every one of the families here today, who have all valiantly pushed through, despite their own broken hearts, over the last six years to make sure those who were lost did not die in vain.”
“These families are some of the most impressive and hard-working advocates I have ever worked with. Since the tragedy six years ago, they have fought hard to make this country’s aviation system safer, with one simple, selfless goal: to prevent other families from having to experience the same loss. We’ve already made tremendous progress thanks to their efforts, and as Congress embarks on a new FAA reauthorization bill this year, we need to continue this work, so that we can eventually reach our goal of one level of safety for all crews and passengers,” said Senator Gillibrand.
“The crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in my Western New York community was a tragic, avoidable accident,” said Congressman Higgins. “Thanks to the advocacy by the families who lost so much, the Federal Aviation Administration has worked towards improving safety reforms to better protect the public from future tragedies. We have made great progress in the last six years but still our work is not done. Together we will continue the push for safer skies.”
“After the Flight 3407 tragedy, we worked hard to ensure that regional pilots meet the same high training standards that are required of commercial pilots, and follow the same rest and fatigue guidelines. If the FAA caves to industry pressure and rolls back these hard-fought gains, more lives will be at risk. Every airline passenger deserves ‘One Level of Safety,’ and it is our obligation to make sure those safety standards are enforced. I am proud to stand with the Flight 3407 families who have worked tirelessly so others won’t have to endure the same tragic loss,” said Congresswoman Slaughter.
“Nearly six years later, the crash of Flight 3407 still weighs heavy on our community,” said Congressman Collins. “Through the tireless advocacy of the families of Flight 3407 significant reforms have been made to achieve one level of aviation safety for consumers. However, the fight is not over. It is vital we maintain the hard fought improvements in airline safety standards that we have won, while fighting for further improvements.”
“Nearly six years after the fateful crash of Flight 3407, I stand with my colleagues and the families of Flight 3407 as we work towards ensuring that the common sense aviation safety regulations remain in the FAA Reauthorization Bill,” said Congressman Reed. “We are steadfast in our obligation to ensure airline and pilot safety and I commend the families and loved ones for keeping aviation safety at the forefront. It is my hope that these crucial reforms remain in the legislation.”
The tragic February 2009 crash of Continental Flight 3407 near Buffalo, New York claimed 50 lives and alerted the nation to the shortfalls in our aviation safety system, particularly at the regional airline level. In the wake of the tragedy, the Western New York delegation worked together with the families who lost loved ones in the crash, to pass the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010. This landmark aviation safety legislation sought to address many of the factors contributing to the increasing safety gap between regional and mainline carriers by requiring the FAA to develop regulations to improve safety, including enhanced entry-level pilot training and qualification standards, pilot fatigue rules, airline pilot training and safety management programs, and through the creation of an electronic pilot record database.
This legislation established a number of mechanisms for increasing aviation safety in an effort to achieve a true “One Level of Safety” between our nation’s regional and mainline carriers. In particular, this legislation included a mandate that first officers — also known as co-pilots — hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which requires that the pilot log 1,500 flight hours. Previously, first officers were required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time. Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Slaughter, Collins and Reed explained that this rule helps ensure our nation’s pilots have the best set of skills and knowledge available before getting into the cockpit of a commercial plane. The delegation members said there are exceptions to the 1,500 hour rule, including one for military pilots with fewer piloting hours, but some in the aviation industry would like to water down these rules even further to make it easier to hire pilots with less flying experience. They said that the families of Flight 3407 fought too hard for the pilot training rule, for their successful efforts to be thwarted, and under no circumstances should we weaken the standards surrounding pilot qualifications.
Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Slaughter, Collins and Reed said the 3407 families’ efforts also led to the passage of the law that mandates stricter flight and duty time regulations to combat pilot fatigue. These new pilot fatigue rules incorporate the latest fatigue science to set requirements based on the time of day pilots begin their first flight, the number of flight segments, and the number of time zones they cross. Under these pilot fatigue rules, the FAA now sets limits on flight time to eight or nine hours, depending on the start time of the pilot’s entire flight duty period, and sets a 10-hour minimum rest period, mandating that the pilot have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within that period. These FAA rules also address potential cumulative fatigue by requiring that pilots have at least 30 consecutive hours free from duty on a weekly basis.
Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Slaughter, Collins and Reed said that rolling back any of these critical safety enhancements during this new Congress would be unacceptable. They also urged the FAA to finalize and implement two rules required by the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 that are still outstanding – a pilot records database, which would make air travel safer for all passengers by pressuring regional carriers to hire the most qualified pilots, and a rule focused on the areas of mentoring, professional development, and leadership.