02.02.15

SCHUMER JOINS WITH ‘MIRACLE ON THE HUDSON’ PILOT CHESLEY “SULLY” SULLENBERGER & FLIGHT 3407 FAMILIES TO LAUNCH PUSH TO PROTECT CRITICAL FEDERAL AVIATION SAFETY REGULATIONS – RULES FAMILIES FOUGHT HARD FOR ARE AT RISK OF BEING ROLLED BACK IN COMING MONTHS; ANY WEAKENING OF SAFETY STANDARDS IS UNACCEPTABLE

Some in The Industry Want to Water Down Or Eliminate Safety Provisions; Schumer, In Honor of Six-Year Anniversary of Crash, Vows To Push Back Against Any & All Efforts to Make Air Travel Less Safe – Senator Adds Sullenberger, Leading Safety Advocate, To Cause

Following Tragic 2009 Plane Crash That Claimed Lives of 50 People, Including Many WNYers, Schumer & 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 Make Air Travel Safer

 

Schumer: Families of Flight 3407 Fought Too Hard For Efforts to Be Rolled Back

 

Today, at the Flight 3407 Memorial in Clarence Center, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer joined with ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ pilot and aviation safety expert Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, as well as the families of Flight 3407, to launch a push to protect critical federal aviation safety regulations that were enacted following the tragic crash of Flight 3407 that took the lives of 50 people. Schumer said that, with this year’s upcoming reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), some regional airlines are looking to use it as an opportunity to water down or roll back some of the most stringent and effective safety standards, including the requirement that commercial co-pilots have 1,500 flight hours of total time as a pilot before being certified. Schumer said that the families of Flight 3407 have fought too hard for the pilot training rule, as well as many others, for their successful efforts to be undone. Schumer, in honor of the six-year anniversary of the crash, said he is bringing Sullenberger into the cause, as he is perhaps the greatest example of how lives can be saved when pilots are properly trained. Schumer vowed to push back against any and all efforts in Congress to scale back the flight safety rules. He also urged the FAA to finalize and implement some rules that are still outstanding.

“After all of the hard work that went into passing new airline safety regulations in the wake of the crash of Flight 3407, it is unthinkable that some in the aviation industry would even consider trying to scale back these safety standards. Watering down or rolling back these standards would be an affront to all of those who have valiantly fought over the last six years, despite their own broken hearts, to make sure those who were lost did not die in vain,” said Schumer. “In memory of those who lost their lives on that tragic February evening, and in recognition of the great strides that we have already made, I will continue to do everything in my power to push back against any and all efforts to undermine the progress we have made.”

Schumer continued, “One of the people who best understands the importance of comprehensive training and strict aviation safety standards is Captain Sullenberger, and I am pleased to be able to add him to our efforts to keep stringent safety standards in place. There has been no greater champion of aviation safety than the Flight 3407 families – who turned this terrible tragedy into action and results. As we turn our attention to keeping these important regulations in place, it seems only fitting to bring the families together with Captain Sully, who is perhaps the greatest example of how lives can be saved when pilots are properly trained. With Captain Sullenberger now in the co-pilot chair for our continued push for aviation safety, I am more confident than ever before that the fight for safer skies and well-trained pilots will be a priority this Congress.”


“Because of the tragic crash of Continental Connection/Colgan Air 3407, we have learned important lessons and Congress has mandated crucial safety improvements,” said Captain Sullenberger. “We owe it to those who lost their lives on that flight, their families, and to the flying public, not to allow these critical safety rules to be weakened or rolled back. I would like to thank Senator Schumer for bringing all of us together today, and I'd like to thank the families for their continuous and tireless advocacy.”

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, and with the help of the families who lost loved ones in the crash, Schumer worked with his colleagues in Congress 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.

Schumer explained that the 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 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 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 said the 3047 families’ efforts also led to the passage of the law that mandates stricter flight and duty time regulations to combat pilot fatigue. Schumer said 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 also said new rules, enacted as a result of Schumer’s and the Flight 3407 families’ efforts, are advancing the way commercial pilots are trained. Specifically, the regulation requires pilots to take part in ground and flight training that enables pilots to prevent and recover from aircraft stalls and upsets. The regulation also requires air carriers to use data to track remedial training for pilots with performance deficiencies, and to institute enhanced runway safety procedures and expanded crosswind training.

 

Schumer said that rolling back any of these critical safety enhancements during this new Congress would be unacceptable. Schumer also urged the FAA to finalize and implement two rules required by The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 that are still outstanding – a pilot records database, which would make air travel safer for all passengers by pressuring regional carriers to hire the most qualified pilots, and a rule focused on the areas of mentoring, professional development, and leadership.

  

In honor of the six-year anniversary of the Flight 3407 crash, and to further bolster the families' efforts, Schumer asked ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ pilot and aviation safety expert Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to join the cause, citing that Sullenberger is perhaps the greatest example of how lives can be saved when pilots are properly trained. Sullenberger has been a vocal aviation safety advocate since his miracle landing on the Hudson River in January 2009 while piloting U.S. Airways Flight 1549. During his visit, Schumer vowed to push back against any and all efforts in Congress to scale back the flight safety rules. In memory of their loved ones and in recognition of the great strides that have been made, Schumer called on the Commerce Committee to continue to bolster its Flight 3407 regulations and reject any changes that would scale back or eliminate the 1,500 hour, pilot fatigue, and pilot training regulations.

  

Schumer and Sullenberger were joined by John & Marilyn Kausner, Karen Eckert, and other families affected by the 3407 tragedy.


“We thank Senator Schumer and Captain Sullenberger for being here today, and for their continued efforts to improve flight safety,” said John Kausner, who lost his daughter, Ellyce, in the crash. “For six years, the families of Flight 3407 have fought for aviation safety. The pilot training and fatigue rules, as well as the 1,500 hour rule, are critical to preventing tragedies like this.  It is vital that we continue the fight to keep these regulations in place, and we are grateful to have partners like Senator Schumer and Captain Sullenberger.”

 

Schumer has long worked with the families of the victims in the Continental Flight 3407 crash to significantly improve air travel safety and safety standards, particularly when an investigation following the crash revealed that shockingly limited flying experience is required to be a co-pilot for a regional carrier. Continental Flight 3407 was flown by a regional carrier, Colgan Air, which is no longer in existence. The crash was caused in part due to a dramatic loss of airspeed and a lack of effective reaction to aerodynamic stall. From the earliest days after the crash, Schumer and the families of the victims worked on legislation to close the gaps in airline safety that allowed this tragedy to occur and create one level of safety for all segments of the industry. Their efforts culminated in the passage of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Extension Act in the summer of 2010, which mandated new safety standards including increased training for pilots and stricter flight and duty time regulations to combat pilot fatigue. This law also requires that online vendors of airline tickets disclose, at first viewing, if the flight is operated by a regional carrier instead of a major carrier.

 

On many occasions over the last six years, Schumer has pushed the FAA to move faster in implementing aviation safety regulations and has successfully pushed back against attempts to undermine the families of Flight 3407’s efforts.

 

A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the Commerce Committee appears below:

 

Dear Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson:

 

On February 12, 2009, Continental Connection Flight 3407 operated by Colgan Air crashed into a house in Clarence Center, New York, claiming the lives of all 49 people on board, as well as one man in the home.  The subsequent National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation revealed many deficiencies in how the airline hired, trained, and resourced its pilots.  More broadly, this preventable tragedy exposed a wide gap in potential safety risks between the operation of our nation’s regional carriers and their mainline partners, reflected by the fact that all six fatal commercial airline crashes on U.S. carriers since 2001 have been on regional carriers.

 

In response to the findings of the NTSB and Aviation Subcommittee hearings in both chambers, Congress unanimously passed, and President Obama signed into law, Public Law 111-216, 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 this increasing safety gap between regional and mainline carriers, through the implementation of numerous initiatives focused on entry level pilot training and qualification standards, pilot fatigue, airline pilot training and safety management programs, and the creation of an electronic pilot record database.

 

The last four and a half years have seen the FAA and the airline industry make very good progress in the implementation of the provisions of this bill, and have contributed to our commercial aviation system becoming even safer, particularly with regards to our nation’s regional carriers.  However, as your committee undertakes the task of re-authorizing the FAA, there are some in the industry who would prefer that some of these provisions be watered down, or even worse, completely rolled back—in particular, the new First Officer qualification standards introduced by FAA in August 2013.

 

As the family members and loved ones of those needlessly lost on Flight 3407 learned in such a painful manner, complacency is a dangerous enemy when it comes to the day-to-day safe operation of our nation’s commercial aviation system.  In memory of their loved ones and in recognition of the great strides that have already been taken, we call on you and your committee to continue to bolster their efforts to achieve a true ‘One Level of Safety’ between our nation’s regional and mainline carriers by resisting any efforts to lower the new first officer training and experience standards introduced by FAA.  Furthermore, we call on you to accelerate the implementation of the remaining provisions in the Law by including new rulemaking milestones for the FAA to achieve.

 

Thank you for your steadfast efforts in promoting the safety of our commercial airline system.

 

Sincerely,

 

Charles E. Schumer

United States Senator

 

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