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Lee, Slaughter and Higgins Say Airline Safety Provisions Will Become Law This Week

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Chris Lee (NY-26), Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28) and Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) today announced that the safety provisions championed by the families of Flight 3407 will be linked to the noncontroversial FAA extension bill, virtually assuring their passage by August 1.

Today Chairman of the House Transportation Committee James Oberstar of Minnesota announced that the safety provisions would be attached to a noncontroversial bill that is required for the FAA to continue its operations. FAA extensions have in the past passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

It was the effort of the families and local lawmakers that pushed to include the permanent safety measures in a bill that lawmakers were confident could be signed into law in the coming week.

"Finally, nearly a year and a half after the Flight 3407 tragedy, due to the hard and persistent work by the families who lost loved ones that night, Congress will soon send to the president's desk long overdue aviation safety reforms," said Congressman Lee. "With the passage of these much-needed reforms there will now be one level of safety in the skies, and the flying public can have confidence that there will be experienced, well-trained and prepared pilots in each and every cockpit."

"The lessons we learned about regional airline industry training and standards have been shocking, not only for Western New Yorkers but for the millions of Americans who step onto an airplane each day. We needed strong, meaningful and timely legislation to make sure tragedies like the crash of flight 3407 never happen again and I'm delighted that day will finally come," said Slaughter, Chairwoman of the House Rules Committee. "I want to thank the families who we've worked with time and time again in Washington for their heroic work to make this possible. After more than a year, we'll finally be able to stand together and make these long overdue safety provisions the law of the land."

"Today, we can say with certainty that the long fought for goal of improving our country's aviation safety standards are within sight, approaching a great victory for the families who mourn the loss of their loved ones on the tragic Flight 3407," said Congressman Higgins. "Thanks to the hard work of the 3407 Families, Chairman Oberstar, Subcommittee Chairman Costello, my New York colleagues Reps. Nadler, Bishop, Arcuri and McMahon, and my Western New York colleagues, these long overdue aviation safety provisions will soon be a reality. After nearly 17 months, we were finally able to move beyond talk and create the change we need and airline passengers deserve. This is a great day for the Families of 3407 victims, who through their enduring fight, provided all airline passengers and their loved ones with greater peace of mind moving forward."

"Today was a very good day, one of the best we've had in a very long time," Susan Bourque who lost her sister Beverly Eckert in the crash of Continental Connection flight 3407. "We know there's more work to be done but we're very hopeful that the Senate will come through for us the same way the House has. We want to thank the efforts of Congresswoman Slaughter, Congressman Lee and Congressman Higgins for their contributions in making this happen."

Key provisions of the legislation include:

- Pilot Qualifications: Requires airline pilots to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate (1,500 minimum flight hours required; current minimum is 250 flight hours). Requires the FAA to raise the minimum requirements for the ATP certificate. Requires pilot training for effective performance in: an air carrier operational environment; adverse weather conditions, including icing; high altitude operations; and a multi-pilot crew. Enables the FAA to consider allowing certain academic training hours that may increase the level of safety above the minimum requirements to be counted towards the 1,500-hour ATP certificate requirement.

- Implementation of National Transportation Safety Board Recommendations: Requires FAA to ensure that pilots are trained on stall recovery, upset recovery, and that airlines provide remedial training to pilots who need it.

- Pilot Records Database: Creates a Pilot Records Database to provide airlines with fast, electronic access to a pilot's comprehensive record. Information in the database will include: pilot licenses, aircraft ratings, check rides, notices of disapproval, other flight proficiency tests, and State motor vehicle driving records.

- Fatigue: Flight and Duty Time Rule -- Directs the FAA to update and implement new pilot flight and duty time rules within one year to more adequately track scientific research in the field of fatigue. Fatigue Risk Management Systems -- Requires air carriers, within 90 days, to create fatigue risk management systems approved by FAA to proactively mitigate pilot fatigue. Commuting Study -- Studies the impact of pilot commuting on fatigue and provides preliminary results to the FAA to be considered as part of the flight and duty time rulemaking.

- ASAP and FOQA: Directs the FAA to develop and implement a plan to facilitate the establishment of an Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) and a Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program by all commercial airlines and their unions. Report: Requires FAA to report on ASAP, FOQA, Line Operations Safety Audit (LOSA), and Advanced Qualification Program (AQP), which will include: an analysis of which airlines are using the programs or if they are using something comparable that achieves similar safety goals; how FAA will expand the use of the programs; and how FAA is using data from the programs as safety analysis and oversight tools for aviation safety inspectors.

- Truth in Advertising: Mandates that Internet websites that sell airline tickets disclose to the purchaser on the first page of the website the air carrier that operates each segment of the flight.

Timeline of actions by the Western New York lawmakers:

February 26, 2009- House Considers Lee/Slaughter/Higgins Resolution Honoring Victims of Flight 3407

May 14, 2009- Lee, Slaughter, Higgins Call for Independent Investigation of Commercial Airline Pilot Training Programs

May 21, 2009- House Approves Lee/Slaughter/Higgins Amendment Requiring Independent, Comprehensive Review of Commercial Airline Pilot Training Programs

July 08, 2009- Lee, Slaughter and Higgins Successful in Pushing For Independent Review of Commercial Airline Pilot Training Programs

July 21, 2009- Congressmembers Higgins & Lee Join Rep. Holt in Introducing House Bill Aimed at Providing "One Level of Aviation Safety'

July 29, 2009- Higgins, Lee, Slaughter Lead Major Bipartisan Effort to Improve Airline Safety and Pilot Training

October 01, 2009- Higgins, Lee and Slaughter Continue Effort to Improve Airline Safety and Pilot Training

October 14, 2009- Higgins, Lee, Slaughter Call Bipartisan Measure a Strong First Step to Improving Airline Safety

December 04, 2009- Higgins, Lee, Slaughter Urge Federal Aviation Administration to Implement New Guidelines on Pilot Fatigue and Pilot Commuting

January 22, 2010- Higgins, Lee, Slaughter Urge Immediate Senate Action To Increase Aviation Safety

February 02, 2010- Statement by Western New York Lawmakers on NTSB's Flight 3407 Final Report

February 11, 2010- Lee, Higgins, Slaughter Demand Explanation of FAA's Delay Implementing Aviation Safety Reforms

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