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On Eve of Flight 3407 Anniversary, Congressman Higgins Presses for Continued Work to Address Flight Safety

Feb 11, 2020
Press Release
A Decade Later Pilot Record Database Still Not in Place; Inspector General Announces Audit of Pilot Training Requirements This Week

As Western New York prepares to mark the tragic anniversary of the crash of Flight 3407, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is calling on the federal government to persist in demanding the highest level of safety for airline passengers.  Higgins voice comes as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is delayed in implementing the changes required in legislation following the crash, and as new concerns are raised relative to pilot training.  

In his remarks, Higgins said, “Western New York will never forget Flight 3407 and neither should Congress. I urge my colleagues to continue to strive for One Level of Safety and remain vigilant about aviation safety standards.”

(To access video go to: https://youtu.be/YFyQQocrRHs)

The Pilot Records Database, required in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill of 2010, has been in a beta test phase since December 2017. In May of 2019 Congressman Higgins led a bipartisan letter signed by 24 Members of the House urging “the FAA to make full implementation of the PRD a priority and to provide the timeline for implementation as soon as possible.”  In August of 2019 the Secretary of Transportation forwarded a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” on the Pilot Records Database to the Office of Management and Budget for review.  On December 26, 2019, the FAA filed a request for comments for a portion of the database with a deadline of February 24, 2020. Further action is needed to implement the proposed rules and complete the implementation of the Pilot Records Database.

Through the Pilot Records Database, a commercial airline will be able to see information regarding employment history, training, certifications, and status of national driver registry records.  The captain of Flight 3407 failed three practical tests known as “check rides” but only disclosed one to the regional airline that hired him.   The Pilot Record Database would provide information such as FAA records and qualifications, practical test results, past legal enforcement actions, and driver records to air carriers, to make informed, transparent hiring decisions.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General announced a new audit of pilot training requirements.  The Inspector General’s (IG) memo references the fatal crashes of Lion Air Flight 610 out of Indonesia in 2018 and Ethiopian Air Flight 302 in 2019, both involving the Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.  They write, “These fatal accidents have drawn widespread attention to FAA’s oversight and certification practices, including the Agency’s process for establishing pilot training requirements for the aircraft.”

The IG lists the objectives of the audit as follows: “to (1) evaluate FAA’s process for establishing pilot training requirements for U.S. and foreign air carriers operating U.S.-certificated large passenger aircraft, and (2) review international civil aviation authorities’ requirements for air carrier pilot training regarding the use of flight deck automation.”

After the Flight 3407 crash in Western New York 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.  Thanks to the persistence of the families of Flight 3407, in 2010 Congress approved the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act, which included greater transparency for travelers and additional rest time and training requirements for pilots.

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