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Mr. LEE of New York. Madam Speaker, this has been a long time in coming. We are here today due to a group of individuals, many of whom are here tonight up in the gallery. It is truly amazing. They are the ones who decided to turn their personal tragedies into a mission to overhaul the way our airlines operate in this country and the way the pilots are trained.
It was February 12, 2009, a day, I think, everyone will always remember who is from western New York. Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed into a home in Clarence Center, New York. This tragedy claimed the lives of 50 people, including a friend of mine, an expectant mother, many of whom who were constituents in my district, and, as I'd mentioned, a number of whom I'd known personally.
Since the night of the tragedy, I am proud to say that I have made many new friends as I see and peer up into the gallery this evening. The faces of these family members have not only become familiar to me but to many of the people who sit here on the floor tonight.
As a result of their never-ending commitment to ensuring a tragedy like this will never, ever happen again, they have taken their grief and have turned this tragedy into a significant push for meaningful aviation safety reforms that are before us today and which will be a part of the future of the FAA extension. From requiring all pilots to have at least 1,500 flight hours of experience to addressing issues with pilot fatigue and training, these reforms will ensure that no air carrier will ever cut corners. When this law takes effect, each and every person who boards a commercial aircraft in this country will know that there is an experienced, well-trained and prepared pilot in every cockpit. It should never have to have been otherwise.
With no doubt, we are here today because of the hard work of these families and also because of the dedication of many of my colleagues: my good friend, Congressman BRIAN HIGGINS; Congresswoman Slaughter; Ranking Members MICA and PETRI; and of course, Chairmen OBERSTAR and COSTELLO, who took this forward. This has been very near and dear to me, and I appreciate your efforts and what you have done. This has been a long haul. Again, it is truly appreciated. To the staffs of all who have worked tirelessly over the last 17 months, I think they also deserve credit in addition to the families, for all of this, at the end of the day, is going to mean meaningful aviation safety that will benefit all Americans.
It has been nearly 17 months since the crash, and we are finally at a point where 1.8 million Americans each and every day who board a craft--and more than 400,000 of whom are on regional carriers--will be assured one level of aviation safety.
Lastly, our actions today truly validate the families' efforts in coming out to honor their loved ones. I just want to name a few. Kevin Kuwik, Karen Eckert, Susan Bourque, Scott Maurer, John Kausner, and many other family members--way too many to offer here--all have played an incredible role in getting done what we've gotten done tonight.
There were days I didn't think we'd get there, but it gives you hope when you see how both sides have come together to really push through this legislation. They have really turned the tears of sadness into tears of joy. So I am very pleased to be here. These men and women have worked so hard to get to this point. It makes me proud to be a western New Yorker. I really don't think anybody else--any group of families--could have done what this group has done tonight.
With that, I am just pleased that all Americans will benefit from the hard work that these families have done for this country.
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