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House Approves Lee/Slaughter/Higgins Amendment Requiring Independent, Comprehensive Review of Commercial Airline Pilot Training Programs

May 21, 2009
Press Release

Click here to see Congressman Higgins' Remarks on the House Floor

The U.S. House of Representatives today approved an amendment introduced by Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26), Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) that initiates an independent, comprehensive review of all commercial airline pilot training and certification programs. The amendment was included in H.R. 915, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009.

The lawmakers announced the amendment last week during National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearings that revealed a number of troubling findings surrounding the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407, including the crew’s lack of hands-on training and experience in the plane’s safety systems, the pilot’s failure to execute a proper stall recovery, and non-essential cockpit conversation below 10,000 feet in violation of federal rules.

The provision tasks the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with addressing these and other issues related to the tragic loss of life on Feb. 12, 2009. Often referred to as the “congressional watchdog,” the GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress.

Kevin Kuwik, whose girlfriend lost her life in the crash, applauded the lawmakers’ amendment: “In the past three months, our group of families has struggled to come to terms with the fact that this tragic accident was seemingly very preventable.  This action represents an important step in ensuring that all pilots are trained to the highest level possible, especially in the critical areas of stall recovery and cold weather operations, to prevent other families from having to suffer through what we have.”  

“Last week we sat with families devastated by the tragedy of Flight 3407 and while nothing can be done to reverse their pain, they expressed a clear desire for federal action aimed at preventing similar incidents in the future,” said Congressman Higgins.  “We owe it to them and the general flying public to do everything we can to take these steps to make airline travel as safe as possible.”

Congressman Lee added: “While it is horrifying to think that this tragedy could have been avoided, this comprehensive review would expose information that will help the aviation industry reform its training practices to ensure passenger safety and confidence.”

“It is our responsibility to learn as much as we can about this terrible tragedy so we can reform industry standards,” Congresswoman Slaughter said. “Simply put, we have to do a better job of protecting passengers and crew.”

The potential issues the GAO will be tasked with addressing include:

·         commercial pilot training and certification programs at U.S. air carriers;

·         how air carriers update and train pilots on new technologies in aircraft types in which they hold certifications, and whether such training is timely and sufficient to maintain flight safety;

·         what remedial actions should be taken in cases of repeated unsatisfactory check-rides by commercial airline pilots in the same aircraft type and what impact repeated unsatisfactory check-rides should have on pilot certification in that aircraft type;

·         a review of Federal Aviation Administration and international standards regarding commercial airline pilot training and certification programs; and

·         what stall warning systems are included in flight simulator training compared to classroom instruction, and the impact on flight safety.