Following Tragic 2009 Plane Crash That Claimed Lives of 50 People, Including Many WNYers, Families Of Flight 3407 Fought to Create Tough Flight Safety Regulations, Including Requirement That Pilots Log 1,500 Flight Hours In Order To Receive Airline Transport Pilot Certificate

Congress Must Re-Authorize FAA Charter This Year & Some May Use Opportunity To Weaken Provisions That Are Making Air Travel Safer – Schumer, Gillibrand Say Some in The Industry Want to Water Down Or Eliminate Safety Provisions 

In Honor of Eight-Year Anniversary of Crash, Senators Vow To Push Back Against Any & All Efforts to Make Air Travel Less Safe 

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand joined together today with the families of Flight 3407 to discuss their latest advocacy efforts around the upcoming FAA Reauthorization Bill. Together, they reaffirmed their commitment to make sure that the aviation safety regulations the families fought so hard to pass – including rules on pilot training and fatigue – are not rolled back or watered down as part of the FAA reauthorization negotiations. The families of Flight 3407 made the trip to Washington in advance of the 8th anniversary of the tragic crash of Continental Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo, New York, which took the lives of all forty-nine on board as well as one man on the ground.   

“After the heart breaking tragedy of Flight 3407, the families of victims came together and advocated for aviation regulations that undoubtedly save lives and keep the traveling public safe. It is unthinkable that some in the aviation industry are pushing the FAA to water down these standards, and it is an affront to the 3407 families’ efforts over the last eight years,” said Senator Schumer. “That’s why I am renewing my push to ensure the FAA maintains its current safety rules and make sure travelers can expect a safe journey, regardless of the size of the airline. It is a matter of public safety and doing right by the families of Flight 3407 victims.”

“For eight years now, the families of the Flight 3407 victims have never given up in their fight for one level of safety for all airlines,” said Senator Gillibrand. “They know that the only way we will improve our air safety laws is if they speak out and take action, and thanks to their extraordinary efforts, we have not had a tragedy like Flight 3407 in the last eight years. We must continue to be vigilant to ensure that no legislation passes the Senate that would roll back the safety regulations that these families fought so hard to achieve, and I will do everything I can to make sure these important safety rules stay in place.”

"We wouldn't be where we are today without the diligent efforts of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand on our behalf over the past eight years," stated Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, who lost her sister and 9/11 widow and activist Beverly Eckert.  "The reforms that we have fought so hard for and our constant presence in Washington have resulted in eight years of no fatal commercial airline crashes, an unprecedented period of safety in our country's aviation history. It would be absolutely irresponsible for our government to send a message to the industry that it could return to its old bad habits, so we remain committed to being vocal and visible here in Washington in honor of the memory of our loved ones."

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. Continental Flight 3407 was flown by a regional carrier, Colgan Air, which is no longer in existence. In the wake of the tragedy, Schumer and 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.

This legislation established a number of mechanisms for increasing aviation safety in an effort to achieve a true “One Level of Safety” between our nation’s regional and mainline carriers. In particular, this legislation included a mandate that first officers – also known as co-pilots – hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which requires that the pilot log 1,500 flight hours. Previously, first officers were required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time. Schumer explained that this rule helps ensure our nation’s pilots have the best set of skills and knowledge available before getting into the cockpit of a commercial plane. Schumer, Gillibrand said there are exceptions to the 1,500 hour rule, including one for military pilots with fewer piloting hours, but some in the aviation industry would like to water down these rules even further to make it easier to hire pilots with less flying experience. Schumer, Gillibrand said that the families of Flight 3407 fought too hard for the pilot training rule for their successful efforts to be thwarted, and under no circumstances should we weaken the standards surrounding pilot qualifications.

Schumer, Gillibrand said the 3407 families’ efforts also led to the passage of the law that mandates stricter flight and duty time regulations to combat pilot fatigue. These new pilot fatigue rules incorporate the latest fatigue science to set requirements based on the time of day pilots begin their first flight, the number of flight segments, and the number of time zones they cross. Under these pilot fatigue rules, the FAA now sets limits on flight time to eight or nine hours, depending on the start time of the pilot’s entire flight duty period, and sets a 10-hour minimum rest period, mandating that the pilot have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep within that period. These FAA rules also address potential cumulative fatigue by requiring that pilots have at least 30 consecutive hours free from duty on a weekly basis. Schumer, Gillibrand said that rolling back any of these critical safety enhancements would be unacceptable.


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