Congressman Jerry F. Costello (D-IL), Ranking Member of the House Aviation Subcommittee, commended the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration for progress being made in implementing the Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009, which was enacted into law in 2010 as part of H.R. 5900, the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, during an Aviation Subcommittee hearing on aviation safety in the United States.
As Chairman of the Aviation Subcommittee during the 110th and 111th Congresses, Costello made aviation safety his top priority, conducting a series of hearings examining all aspects of aviation safety, which took on even greater importance following the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in February 2009. The result of this effort was H.R. 3371, the strongest aviation safety bill enacted in the last 50 years. While there is still a good deal of work to be done, a final pilot fatigue rule and ongoing rulemaking on air carrier crew training are major steps forward.
"Generally speaking, I am encouraged by the progress that the FAA has made implementing the comprehensive airline safety and pilot training bill that we enacted in the 111th Congress," said Costello in his opening statement. "I commend Secretary LaHood and the Acting Administrator for completing a pilot fatigue rule, and proposing a new pilot training rule that will dramatically increase the training standards for first officers. As the Colgan tragedy made very clear, aviation safety depends on making sure pilots have the training and experience necessary to deal with adverse situations. I will continue to work with the FAA and all interested stakeholders as this process continues to make sure that the FAA produces the strongest possible rule."
Costello pressed Scott Foose, Senior Vice President for Operations and Safety for the Regional Airlines Association (RAA), as to the number of regional airlines that have an approved plan to have their first officers meet the new standard of having an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. Foose responded that only three of the RAA's 27 members had such a plan, and he was not sure if Pinnacle Airlines, the parent company of Colgan Air, had a plan in place. Costello told Foose to provide the Subcommittee a full list as soon as possible.
The subject of increased operational errors by air traffic controllers was also discussed, as the total number of reported errors has increased with the introduction of new reporting programs. Costello cautioned to keep the numbers in perspective, as even at the increased level, they represent only .0016% of all airline operations in 2010. By continuing rigorous oversight and working together as an industry, he emphasized, we will maintain the strong safety record of U.S. aviation.
"Mr. Chairman, the United States commercial aviation system is the safest in the world," said Costello in his statement. "It is the safest because of the hard work over the years by many professionals at the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, government auditing agencies, organized labor, the airline industry and also Congress and this Subcommittee."