Congress members warn weakening of rule would reverse flight safety improvements made since the crash of Flight 3407
Congress members Brian Higgins, Chris Collins, Louise Slaughter and Tom Reed led a bipartisan letter signed by 22 members of the House of Representatives urging the Federal Aviation Administration to reject proposals to scale back co-pilot training requirements.
In the letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, the Congress members wrote, "We were dismayed to learn that consideration is being given to weakening these robust first officer qualification requirements. ... We urge you to withstand industry pressure, based on the flawed premise of a pilot shortage, and maintain these strong first officer qualifications, which have played a vital role in ushering in a period of unprecedented regional airline safety."
"As this upcoming election gives way to a new Congress and another FAA reauthorization process, it is absolutely critical that we continue to send a strong message to our regional airlines about the importance of maintaining the toughest safety standards possible, particularly when it comes to entry-level first officer qualification requirements," said John Kausner of Clarence Center, who lost his daughter, Ellyce, in the crash of Flight 3407. "Once again, we thank our Western New York House delegation of Reps. Higgins, Collins, Slaughter and Reed for their strong leadership and unwavering support of our cause. We are also extremely grateful for the bipartisan support of members ranging from coast to coast, making it very clear to Administrator Huerta how critical it is that FAA does not give into lobbying pressure from the industry. In the memory of our loved ones who were needlessly lost, we will continue to be vigilant and vocal in our advocacy for a true 'One Level of Safety' between our nation's mainline and regional carriers. "
Published reports indicate an advisory panel created by the FAA is contemplating recommendations that would allow for the weakening of the first officer qualifications rule.
Following the 2009 crash of Flight 3407, families of the victims lost in the accident and members of the Western New York federal delegation fought for flight safety improvements, including higher standards for pilot and co-pilot training. Provisions included in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, approved unanimously by Congress, called for new standards generally requiring 1,500 hours of flight experience for co-pilots to attain certification.
The elected leaders said the administrator was already given flexibility to provide flight hour credit for academic training at accredited institutions and for military pilots, and that further easing is unnecessary and unwarranted.
Members signing the letter pointed out, "These efforts have resulted in over seven years without a fatal crash on a regional airline, a significant improvement over the previous decade."