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Higgins, Lee and Slaughter Continue Effort to Improve Airline Safety and Pilot Training

Oct 1, 2009
Press Release

Congressmembers Brian Higgins (NY-27), Chris Lee (NY-26) and Louise Slaughter (NY-28) sent a letter to Chairman Oberstar and Ranking Member Mica, leaders of the House Transportation Committee to reiterate their strong support for H.R. 3771, Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009 and inclusion of critical language central to resolving safety issues.

“Passengers deserve improvements to the system that are strong and encompassing to ensure the best opportunity for enhanced safety and we are fighting to make sure these changes aren’t diluted in any way,” said Congressman Higgins.

“The failures that led to the Flight 3407 tragedy must be corrected,” said Congressman Lee. “Our pilots in the cockpit must have the strongest possible training and experience, being an airline pilot cannot be an entry level job. While I am pleased to see the strong bipartisan cooperation and the speed with which this measure has been crafted, we need to ensure this key provision is included in the legislation.”

“Our first priority in this bill is safety,” said Slaughter. “The transportation committee passed a bill taking into account the lessons learned from the tragic crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407.  We won't improve pilot training unless we require everyone in the cockpit to be adequately prepared to handle an emergency.  The required 1,500 hours of pilot training needs to apply to all pilots and I will do everything in my power to keep the provision intact.”  

In the wake of the tragic Flight 3407 which claimed the lives of 50 people in February 2009, the Western New York Lawmakers have spearheaded an effort to address much needed federal aviation safety reform. In today’s letter, Higgins, Lee and Slaughter are specifically seeking to preserve language in the bill that would require all pilots hired to fly for commercial airlines to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license, a key provision to improve aviation safety problems

Below is the text of the letter signed by Higgins, Lee & Slaughter:

October 1, 2009

The Honorable James L. Oberstar
The Honorable John L. Mica
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
2165 Rayburn House Office Building 
Washington, DC 20515

Chairman Oberstar and Ranking Member Mica:

We would like to thank you for your leadership in moving forward with H.R. 3771, the Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009, which will fix a number of problems jeopardizing the safety of our airlines. We would also like to reiterate our strong support for language in the bill requiring all pilots hired to fly for commercial airlines to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license.

The ATP requirement is one of the most important provisions in H.R. 3771. The ATP provides the flight training and experience needed for the safe piloting of modern aircraft through a congested air traffic control network in difficult weather environments. Both pilots on Flight 3407, which crashed in February of this year, held licenses but were not prepared to fly in icing conditions. The current system encourages airlines to limit students' exposure to even potentially moderately adverse weather conditions, and this requirement would help address that problem. In addition, mainline air carriers require the ATP for employment and “one level of safety” dictates that all air carriers, regional or otherwise, should require the ATP as well. The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations (CAPA), The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Airline Division representing 90,000 commercial airline pilots recommend the TAP license as the minimum standard because “the 1500 flight hours that the ATP requires develops a mature, experienced and professional aviator who has the foundation to exercise prudent judgment while responsible for the safe transportation of tens or even hundreds of passengers.”

H.R. 3771 will go a long way to helping ensure that a tragedy like the crash of Flight 3407 does not happen again, and the ATP standard is an important part of this legislation. Thank you for your consideration.


Brian Higgins
Chris Lee
Louise Slaughter