Following two deadly airplane crashes, members of Western New York's federal delegation are calling on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to move quickly to finalize aviation safety rules requiring new pilot training standards.
"We are urging the FAA to work with expediency to finalize what has been a long, bureaucratic process of rule implementation prompted by the lessons we learned after the crash of Flight 3407," said Congressman Brian Higgins. "More than four years have passed since that tragic day and yet the wait continues for changes which will save lives."
"It is unconscionable that the FAA has not fully implemented the flight training rules that we passed in the aftermath of the Flight 3407 crash in Western New York," said Rep. Slaughter. "The greatest way to honor those who were lost -- as well as the victims' families who paid their own way to Washington many times to lobby for this legislation -- is to work to prevent future tragedies. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of these victims, as does our solemn pledge to continue fighting for improvements to airline safety."
"The life-saving measures that Congress enacted in the Airline Safety Act were designed to prevent tragedies similar to Flight 3407, and the yet recent crashes in San Francisco and Alaska are tragic reminders that there is more work to do to accomplish one level of safety," Senator Gillibrand said. "These are preventable disasters, and there must not be any further delay in action to implement these critical safety improvements."
"This is another unfortunate example of the need for the FAA to fully implement flight safety requirements, and do so as soon as possible," Rep. Tom Reed said. "We will not stop fighting for all victims and their families on this public safety issue. We do not need yet another fatal crash for the FAA to fully implement safety protections."
"The sooner we get these rules on the books, the better--that's why we're keeping our foot on the gas until these crucial new airline safety standards for pilot training are in place," said Senator Schumer. "The tragedy and lessons of Flight 3407 must make air travel safer, and we are urging that the FAA keep its word and get these regulations finalized on schedule."
Congressman Chris Collins added, "While not an American airline or under the jurisdiction of the FAA, the tragic crash of Asiana Airline Flight 214 is a sober reminder that we should do all we can to protect the flying public on American-based carriers. Sadly, the FAA has a track record of missing deadlines to achieve that goal. The WNY Congressional Delegation, in partnership with the families of those lost on Flight 3407, continues to hold the FAA accountable for upcoming deadlines to achieve full implementation of the new safety regulations for regional carriers."
On July 6 Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crashed while approaching San Francisco International Airport, resulting in two deaths and over 160 people injured, of the over 300 passengers on board. On July 7 an air taxi crashed at the Soldotna Airport in Alaska killing all 10 people on board. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) sent a team to investigate both crashes.
While details are still emerging, initial reports indicate the Asiana pilot had limited experience flying a Boeing 777 and it may have been the first time he was landing this particular type of aircraft.
Working closely with Flight 3407 families the Western New York delegation pushed for, and in 2010 Congress approved, sweeping new aviation safety requirements for pilots and airlines which included new transparencies for regional carriers, increased training for pilots and new policies to protect against pilot fatigue.
A number of deadlines for rule implementation required under the Airline Safety Act were previously missed, delaying important safety provisions. The Western New York Congressmembers want to make sure all upcoming deadlines are met. A rule requiring 1,500 hours of flight training for co-pilots is due August 1. Another rule requiring additional simulator training on stall situations for pilots is due in October.
Below is the text of the letter sent by Reps. Higgins, Slaughter, Reed, Collins and Senators Schumer & Gillibrand:
The Honorable Michael P. Huerta
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591
Dear Administrator Huerta,
While still under investigation, the tragic crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport is an urgent reminder that flight safety and pilot training rules and regulations protect lives.
Following the crash of Continental Flight 3407 in Clarence Center, NY in 2009, the Western New York congressional delegation worked with the families of the victims to pass legislation to implement several recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board to increase commercial aviation safety.
As you know, the deadlines for several of these congressionally-mandated aviation safety reforms will occur in August and October of this year. These include important reforms to crew member screening, qualifications and training, including special training in stall recognition and recovery. We understand you pledged to the Families of Continental Flight 3407 that these deadlines would be met, and believe it is critically important that they are.
The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 (PL 111-216), which mandated these reforms, was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives and the Senate three years ago. The intent of Congress is clear and there is no excuse for further delay. We urge you in the strongest possible terms to complete these reforms and give the travelling public the level of safety they deserve.
We look forward to hearing from you soon.
Brian Higgins, Member of Congress (NY-26)
Louise Slaughter, Member of Congress (NY-28)
Tom Reed, Member of Congress (NY-23)
Chris Collins, Member of Congress (NY-27)
Charles Schumer, US Senator (NY)
Kirsten Gillibrand, US Senator (NY)
Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed on approach to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport on February 12, 2009, killing all on board and one inside a home. Pilot training and fatigue were cited as factors in the crash.