Higgins Marks 10th Anniversary of the Airline Safety Act With a Tribute to the Families of Flight 3407
August 1, 2020 represents the 10th anniversary of the enactment of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act. This week Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) spoke on the House Floor to recognize the contributions of the Families of Flight 3407 in delivering the landmark aviation safety reforms.
Higgins said in part, “They turned their personal tragedy to a life-giving force, a citizen army to fight for change so that what happened to them would not happen to others. These families were relentless, pushing Congress to strengthen pilot training standards, as the National Transportation Safety Board found pilot error was responsible for the crash. The families did not blame the pilots, for they too were victims. They attacked the system that allowed pilots that were ill-trained to fly planes. There is still much work to be done, but today we honor and express our gratitude to the good and courageous families of Flight 3407.”
After the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 on February 12, 2009, the National Transportation Safety Board identified serious safety deficiencies within the regional airline industry, including exhausting schedules, inexperienced pilots and insufficient training. Again and again the Families of Flight 3407 returned to Capitol Hill, meeting with Members of Congress, transportation leaders and regularly attending Congressional hearings to push for change.
Thanks to the persistence of the families, in 2010 Higgins and other Members of Congress approved, and President Obama signed, the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act (Public Law 111-216), which included greater transparency for travelers and additional rest time and training requirements for pilots.
Key provisions of the legislation included:
- Pilot Qualifications: Requiring airline pilots and first officers hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate with 1,500 minimum flight hours rather than the 250 flight hours previously needed.
- Stall Recovery Training: Requiring the FAA to ensure that pilots are trained on stall recovery, upset recovery, and that airlines provide remedial training to pilots who need it.
- Fatigue Mitigation: Directing the FAA to update and implement new pilot flight and duty time rules to expand rest requirements and mitigate pilot fatigue.
- Truth in Advertising: Mandating that websites selling airline tickets disclose to the purchaser on the first page of the website the air carrier that operates each segment of the flight.
A decade later, a crucial aspect of the Airline Safety Act, the Pilot Records Database (PRD), which provides airlines with fast, electronic access to a pilot’s comprehensive record, has yet to be implemented. Just last week, Higgins and other members of the Western New York federal delegation again called on the FAA to finalize and implement the Pilot Records Database.