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Collins, Loebsack urge Chao to keep pilot training hour requirements in place; Higgins stresses need to remain vigilant on flight safety

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Wed, Jun 28th 2017 08:15 am
Congressmen Chris Collins (NY-27) and Dave Loebsack (IA-02) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in support of maintaining the minimum first officer training and qualification regulations for airline pilots included in Part 121 of airline operations.
This congressional support comes as America is currently enjoying the safest period of airline travel in history after regulations were established in the aftermath of a series of fatal airline crashes between 2004-09. These crashes were determined by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to be caused, in part, by inadequate pilot training and qualifications standards.
As a result of a number of airline tragedies, including the 2009 Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash in Clarence, new regulations were put in place requiring a substantial increase in pilot training. These new regulations came after families who lost loved ones as a result of the Flight 3407 crash became vocal advocates in the fight for flight safety reform. Their efforts won the passage of a number of new measures toward the goal of providing one level of safety for the flying public. As a result of these changes, there has not been a fatal regional airline crash in more than seven years.
"I applaud the tireless efforts of the families that lost loved ones on Flight 3407. They are a large reason why air travel has been the safest it has been in decades," Collins said. "I would be gravely concerned if their efforts are overturned because of regional airlines trying to extend their profits. The federal government and the airlines have a responsibility to keep Americans safe in the skies. It is our hope Secretary Chao joins in our efforts to save the current pilot training standards, which have proven so effective."
"In recent years, since the current training regulations have been in place, the number of tragedies in the skies across the country has decreased," Loebsack said. "It is apparent that these training qualifications exist for good reason, and that is to ensure the safety of airline passengers across the United States. I am proud to work with Congressman Collins and 67 other members to ensure that no effort is made to undermine the safety of our skies."
In total, the letter to Chao was signed by 69 members of Congress in anticipation of the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill's expiration in September. Regional airlines have led a push to remove the training requirements due to their claim of pilot shortage. They are proposing to replace time spent training in the cockpit with classroom hours. A copy of the letter can be found HERE.
Higgins Stresses Need to Remain Vigilant
While draft reauthorization legislation for FAA does not currently include changes to the aviation safety reforms made since the crash of Flight 3407, Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) said threats to flight safety remain with potential amendments circulating that would dismantle requirements under current law.
The House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and Senate Commerce, Science & Transportation Committee are both meeting this week to debate changes to the legislation.
Some in the airline industry are pressuring lawmakers to water down the first officer pilot qualification rule, which requires a co-pilot to attain 1,500 hours of flight time.
Higgins joined his Western New York colleagues and the families of Flight 3407 to speak out against attempts to dismantle flight safety. He also made the following remarks on the House floor:
"Mr. Speaker:
"Eight years ago, Western New Yorkers witnessed tragedy due to inadequate pilot training. A poorly trained pilot crashed a commercial jet into a neighborhood in our community, ending the lives of those on board and one on the ground. Since then, the victim's families of Flight 3407, who suffered unimaginable loss on that day, have turned their grief into powerful citizens' fight to strengthen pilot training and flight safety rules.
"The families of Flight 3407, who are here today, led the charge urging Congress to pass landmark flight safety legislation in 2010, including rules that could have prevented the tragedy they all suffered. Since then, there have been seven years of no fatal commercial crashes on domestic U.S. airlines.
"Now the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization is nearing and some want to beat back this tremendous progress.
"Let's be clear, what is being proposed is a rule change that will allow less experienced pilots to fly commercial jets again. The safety of the flying public should never be compromised again. I am prepared, along with the Western New York delegation and with the 3407 families, to protect these reforms once again, because we know the painful lessons of accepting anything less."
Between 1990 and 2010, prior to passage of the new flight safety rules, passenger airline accidents led to more than 1,100 fatalities. Since approval of the Airline Safety Act in 2010, there have been no passenger airline deaths in the U.S.

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