Members of the Western New York Congressional delegation are calling on federal agencies to finalize and implement the pilot records database to prevent further unnecessary airplane tragedies.
In a letter signed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Congress members Brian Higgins (NY-26), Joe Morelle (NY-25), Tom Reed (NY-23) and Chris Jacobs (NY-27), sent to Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao, the Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Stephen Dickson and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Russell Vought, the bipartisan delegation wrote, “It is the time for this long, arduous process to come to a close and to ensure One Level of Safety for the flying public. The Pilot Records Database must be finalized and implemented as soon as possible.”
This call comes after the National Transportation Safety Board’s recently released investigation into the February 2019 Atlas Air cargo flight revealed a preventable plane crash that led to lost lives. The Atlas Air cargo flight took place Feb. 23, 2019, and killed three people as it crashed into the ground in Trinity Bay, Texas. NTSB’s investigation found the first officer, who was piloting at the time of the crash, deliberately concealed multiple training deficiencies and failed promotion in his previous job at the time of his hire by Atlas Air.
The delegation calls on the Trump administration to act with urgency, writing, “August 1st marks ten years since the passage of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010…the latest news about the deadly Atlas Air cargo flight crash shows we cannot wait one more day to implement the Pilot Records Database.”
A press release said, “The pilot records database is an electronic catalog of pilot information easily accessible by airlines that contains employment history, training certifications and national driver registry records. It was one of several safety measures required in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill of 2010. But the implementation has been unnecessarily slow. The database was finally put into a beta test phase in December 2017. In August of 2019, the secretary of transportation forwarded a ‘Notice of Proposed Rulemaking’ on the pilot records database to OMB for formal review. The public comment period on the final rule closed on June 30, 2020.”
On Feb. 12, 2009, Colgan Air Flight 3407 tragically crashed to the ground in Clarence Center, killing all passengers and crew members on board and one person on the ground. The NTSB accident report concluded the incident was avoidable and attributable to pilot error. It recommended a “process for verifying, validating, auditing and amending pilot training records.”
Following the crash in Western New York, members of the delegation and Flight 3407 families fought for and won several flight safety improvements. The law required enhanced pilot qualifications, increased training hours, new pilot flight and duty time rules to prevent pilot fatigue, and full disclosure to consumers on airline websites of the flight operator, all of which were previously implemented. The pilot record database is the final recommendation that has yet to be implemented.