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Legislation Passed in 2010 Required the FAA to Establish an Electronic Pilot Records Database So Airlines Can Access Complete Training Background of All Commercial Pilots Before They Are Hired 

Schumer, Gillibrand: Failure to Implement Database Needlessly Puts Lives at Risk

Washington, DC – On the 10 year anniversary of the tragic crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today called on the FAA to finish a long overdue airline safety reform by fully implementing the creation of an electronic pilot training database detailing the training background of all commercial pilots. Legislation passed in 2010, the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, required the FAA to establish an electronic Pilot Records by April of 2017. This electronic database would give airlines full access to the training records of commercial pilots when they are recruiting and hiring pilots.

“On the ten year anniversary of Flight 3407 tragedy, we launch a new push to finally establish a new pilot training database – after years of delay and foot-dragging – that will give specific information on the training of all commercial airline pilots,” said Senator Schumer. “Our skies are safer today than ever before because the Flight 3407 families united as one and spearheaded a movement to pass life-saving commercial airline regulations just like this one. I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the 3407 Families until we pass every element of their life-saving agenda.”

“Ten years ago, we tragically lost the lives of fifty loved ones who were on Flight 3407. Since then, their families have worked tirelessly to improve our air safety standards and help make sure no other family has to endure the same kind of senseless loss,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Their advocacy has led to critical reforms in the airline industry, one of which was the creation of an electronic pilot records database. Once fully implemented, this reform will provide airlines with access to all of the safety records they need to ensure that the pilots they are hiring are properly trained and qualified to fly. Failing to meet the deadline for this reform recklessly puts lives at risk, and I am calling on the FAA to finally implement this rule now.”

The tragic February 2009 crash of Continental Flight 3407 near Buffalo, New York claimed 50 lives and alerted the nation to the shortfalls in our aviation safety system, particularly at the regional airline level. In the wake of the tragedy, the Western New York delegation worked together with the families who lost loved ones in the crash, to pass the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010. This landmark aviation safety legislation sought to address many of the factors contributing to the increasing safety gap between regional and mainline carriers by requiring the FAA to develop regulations to improve safety, including enhanced entry-level pilot training and qualification standards, pilot fatigue rules, airline pilot training and safety management programs, and through the creation of an electronic pilot record database.

An audit by the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General revealed that the FAA had missed several deadlines mandated by the 2010 Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act – including the development of the pilot records database, which would ensure airlines have access to pilots' safety records. Schumer and Gillibrand are urging the FAA to implement this critical reform without any further delay.

The full text of the Senators’ letter can be found here and below:

February 12, 2019

Dear Secretary Chao & Acting Administrator Elwell,

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the tragic crash of Flight 3407 near Clarence Center, New York.  Thanks in large part to the extraordinary advocacy and leadership by the families of those who lost their lives, over the past decade we have achieved a number of major safety improvements for commercial air travelers.  These include new rules governing flight and duty time limits, Safety Management Systems, crewmember screening and qualifications, and crewmember training.  Additionally, airline ticket issuers must now disclose flights that are operated by regional air carriers.

Despite all of this success, there is work important that still needs to be completed to achieve one level of safety for all passengers and crews.  In particular, it is completely unacceptable that the Pilot Records Database has not been fully implemented.  Section 203 of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, which we worked hard to enact, required the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to establish an electronic Pilot Records Database no later than April 30, 2017. 

The failure to complete timely implementation of a fully functional Pilot Records Database continues to put lives needlessly at risk.  The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation into the cause of the Flight 3407 crash found that the airline did not have full knowledge of the captain’s complete training record.   The NTSB also found that the cause of the crash was the pilot’s inappropriate response to the activation of the stick shaker, which led to a stall from which the aircraft was unable to recover.  It is critical that airlines have access to a pilot’s full records when recruiting and hiring individuals to pilot commercial aircraft. 

This common-sense solution has the potential to prevent the future loss of life resulting from an unqualified or improperly trained pilot in the cockpit.  We urge you to end the foot-dragging by the FAA and ensure that the electronic Pilot Records Database is fully implemented without further delay. 

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and we await your prompt response.