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Lee, Slaughter, Higgins Call for Independent Investigation of Commercial Airline Pilot Training Programs

May 14, 2009
Press Release

Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26), Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) announced this morning that they will push for a congressional investigation of all commercial airline pilot training and certification programs in the wake of new revelations surrounding the events that led up to the Continental Connection Flight 3407 tragedy.

This announcement comes on the third and final day of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearings that have yielded a number of troubling findings, including non-essential cockpit conversation below 10,000 feet in violation of federal rules, the crew’s lack of hands-on training and experience in the plane’s safety systems, as well as the pilot’s failure to execute a proper stall recovery.

The lawmakers will propose tasking the Government Accountability Office (GAO) with addressing these and other issues related to the tragic loss of life on Feb. 12, 2009. The proposal will come in the form of an amendment to pending legislation (H.R. 915) reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Often referred to as the “congressional watchdog,” the GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress.

“Like many Western New Yorkers, I am horrified by what this week’s hearings have revealed, and the families of the victims and the members of our community couldn’t be faulted for having more questions than answers,” Congressman Lee, a Clarence resident, said. “That’s why we need an independent investigation to address the root causes of what happened and provide insights into what steps can be taken to ensure a tragedy like this never occurs again. This review is designed to complement the work of the NTSB, which has conducted this week’s hearings in a professional and transparent manner.” 

“This week’s NTSB hearings have demonstrated that there needs to be a serious change in the way we protect passengers, crews, and the public,” said Congresswoman Louise M. Slaughter. “We’re going to move forward with an independent investigation to build on what we have learned this week to do all we can to prevent future tragedy.”

“The painful devastation felt as a result of Flight 3407 can never be undone but moving forward we owe it to the victims’ families and all airline travelers to learn from this experience and gather information we can use to provide changes to the system that improve flight safety,” said Congressman Higgins. 

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

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

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