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Higgins Votes For Landmark Aviation Safety Reforms

Jul 29, 2010
Press Release

Today, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) voted with his colleagues in the House of Representatives to approve H.R. 5900, the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act, achieving a legislative victory for the Families of Flight 3407 who fought patiently and persistently to make aviation in American safer and to prevent others from experiencing any similar losses.
 
“A year and a half ago, Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed 5 miles from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, tragically taking fifty lives in an accident that could have been prevented,” said Congressman Higgins.  “With this law, we are finally able to achieve reforms which directly address these very preventable issues such as increasing the required training hours to six times its current level.
 
“To the families of Flight 3407, we extend our appreciation, respect and admiration for your patience and perseverance to make these reforms a reality.   The passage of time will never fully heal the tragedy of your personal loss however your tireless efforts move aviation safety to unprecedented levels so that your tragedy will not be repeated.
 
“We have reached this finish line much in part to the unwavering leadership of Chairman Oberstar, whose commitment to safety across all modes of transportation is unchallenged, Chairman Costello, and Ranking Members Mica and Petri.  Many thanks also to my Western New York colleagues Chris Lee and Louise Slaughter who have joined me in this fight, and Representatives Nadler, Bishop, Arcuri, McMahon and Hall for their support on the Transportation Committee.”
 
Congressman Higgins spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives in support of this legislation.

Pilot Training and Safety Provisions as Negotiated with Senate:

Enhancing Pilot Qualifications, Increasing Training Hours
Requires pilots to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which calls for 1,500 flight training hours (current minimum is 250 hours) and to have effective performance training in: an air carrier operational environment; adverse weather conditions, including icing; high altitude operations; and a multi-pilot crew. 
 
Creating a Comprehensive Pilot Records Database
Creates a Pilot Records Database to provide airlines with fast, electronic access to a pilot’s comprehensive record including: pilot licenses, aircraft ratings, check rides, notices of disapproval, other flight proficiency tests, and State motor vehicle driving records.  In the case of Flight 3407, the pilot had failed to properly perform multiple check rides and flight proficiency tests.  However, because there was no comprehensive pilot records database and Colgan was unaware of the pilot’s poor history.  
 
Preventing and Handling Pilot Fatigue
Directs the FAA to update and implement new pilot flight and duty time rules within one year to more adequately track scientific research in the field of fatigue.  Requires air carriers to create fatigue risk management systems approved by FAA to proactively mitigate pilot fatigue.  The pilot was coming off of a series of late-evening and early-morning flights.  Additionally, the co-pilot was sick and flew a red eye cross-country, arriving the morning of the flight still sick. 
 
Implementing National Transportation Safety Board Recommendations
Requires FAA to ensure that pilots are trained on stall recovery, upset recovery, and that airlines provide remedial training to pilots who need it. The pilot and the co-pilot were not equipped to handle a stall recovery and upset recovery. 
 
Ensuring Truth in Advertising
Mandates that Internet websites that sell airline tickets disclose to the purchaser on the first page of the website the air carrier that operates each segment of the flight.  Many were surprised that Colgan was operating the plane, when they bought a Continental ticket.

Below are the Congressman's remarks as prepared for delivery:

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my colleagues in support of this legislation.

On February 12th, 2009 Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed 5 miles from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport.   Fifty lives were lost that night.

The NTSB investigation found that the crash was preventable -- that the pilots had inadequate training and lacked the ability to recover from stalls or handle inclement weather.

Last October the House overwhelmingly passed legislation to address the causes that contributed to this tragedy.   Most important was a requirement that all commercial pilots undergo fifteen-hundred hours of flight training in order to obtain an ATP license – up from the current requirement of 250 hours.  

To the families of Flight 3407- an incredible and courageous group of people.  To them we extend our appreciation, our respect and our admiration.   As we know all too well, the passage of time will never fully heal the tragedy of their deep personal loss, and nor will these flight safety provisions that we will approve at this late hour.

But we are here tonight because of these families. Families who persevered and carried themselves, over the past 18 months, in a most dignified manner, befitting the cause they dedicated themselves to, and for the people they loved.  They’ve became friends and they worked through Congress with both persistence and patience, and they were guided in their work by the light that still shines from those they loved and lost.

I also thank Chairman Oberstar, who’s commitment to safety across all modes of transportation is unchallenged, Chairman Costello, and Ranking Members Mica and Petri for their leadership.   I thank my Western New York colleagues Chris Lee and Louise Slaughter for joining me in this fight, and Representatives Nadler, Bishop, Arcuri, McMahon and Hall for their support on the Transportation  Committee.

With that Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and yield back the balance.