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With FAA authorization set to expire, leaders & Flight 3407 families call for Congress, federal agencies to maintain achieved flight safety standards


Tue, Sep 25th 2018 01:40 pm
Vote on legislation scheduled this week
Congressmembers Brian Higgins and Tom Reed, and the families of Flight 3407, are calling for action to reauthorize the "One Level of Safety" standards achieved in hard-fought legislation passed in 2010, following the crash of Continental Flight 3407.
"Without continued vigilance, we risk an unraveling of the great progress made in flight safety for all passengers thanks to the tireless advocacy by the families of Flight 3407," Higgins said. "We are pushing for the final bill approved this week to maintain the flight safety standards these families fought for and protect the flying public for years to come."
Reed added, "We will always remember the tragedy, which took the lives of so many in the crash of Flight 3407, and will continue to honor their memory and stand with their family and friends to fight to ensure these enhanced flight safety regulations are reauthorized. We must not back down and lessen these important reforms."
"Congress is on the verge of sending another strong message to the regional airlines and the administration that the qualification requirements for regional airline first officers should not be weakened or watered down in any way," said John Kausner of Clarence Center, who lost his 24-year-old daughter, Ellyse. "We are so grateful to our Western New York congressional delegation for fighting to ensure that this language will not be in this bill, despite the efforts of the airlines and their lobbyists. Now we just need Congress to step up and pass this FAA bill, whether it be this week or after a short extension, so that the safety law that we fought so hard for continues to work as intended.
"There has not been a fatality on a regional airline since the crash of Flight 3407, and we are determined to keep it that way in the memory of our Elly and all of our loved ones who were lost."
Since 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration has operated under five short-term extensions of its legislative authority, the most recent being H.R. 1625, the Consolidated Appropriations Act (2018), extending the FAA's funding and authority through Sept. 30.
Congress must either pass another extension or reauthorize the FAA by Sunday to avert a shutdown of agency operations. A compromise bill, H.R. 302, was released over the weekend. The House of Representatives is expected to vote on the bill as early as Wednesday, and then send it to the Senate for consideration before the deadline expires.
After the Flight 3407 crash in Western New York on Feb. 12, 2009, the National Transportation Safety Board identified serious safety deficiencies within the regional airline industry, including exhausting schedules, inexperienced pilots and insufficient training. Thanks to the persistence of the families of Flight 3407, in 2010, Congress approved the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act, which included greater transparency for travelers and additional rest time and training requirements for pilots. There hasn't been a fatal airline crash in the U.S. for nearly a decade.
Prior to the Flight 3407 tragedy, pilots with as few as 250 hours of flight time were being qualified to fly commercial airliners. The comprehensive legislation authorized in 2010 requires pilots and first officers to hold an airline transport pilot certificate, typically attained through 1,500 hours of flight time training.
Higgins' camp said that, despite significant pressure from regional airlines and their lobbyists, the FAA reauthorization bill does not currently include any provisions to "water down" the 1,500-hour pilot training requirement.
Higgins, Reed and the Flight 3407 families are also calling for the FAA and U.S. Department of Transportation to fully implement the pilot training database. The 2010 law called for the creation of a pilot record database, providing airlines access to a pilot's background, training history, certifications, incident summaries and employment record. The FAA released its beta test for its online pilot records database in December, but has yet to move forward with full operation of the database.

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