Congressman fights to preserve flight safety improvements won by families of Flight 3407
In remarks on the floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman Brian Higgins called on the Federal Aviation Administration to reject a request by Republic Airlines to cut the minimum pilot training standard in half.
Higgins, who fought alongside the families of Flight 3407 to implement flight safety improvements following the 2009 crash, said, “We are calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to categorically reject this request and any attempt to circumvent pilot training requirements. Families in my Western New York community will never have their loved ones back, but we can ensure that every family moving forward is stepping on an airplane with a fully trained pilot.”
Republic Airways, the country’s second-largest regional carrier – which operates routes for American, Delta and United Airlines – is petitioning the FAA for an exemption of the pilot training rule to allow the hiring of pilots with 750 hours of training.
Higgins’ team said, “Prior to the Flight 3407 tragedy, pilots with as few as 250 hours of flight time were being qualified to fly commercial airliners. 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. The comprehensive legislation requires pilots and first officers to hold an airline transport pilot certificate, typically attained through 1,500 hours of flight time training, commonly known at the 1,500-hour rule.
“Republic Airways suggests the request is based on a pilot shortage, a claim rejected by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), which points out, ‘According to the FAA’s Civil Airmen Chart, a total of 15,591 new air transport pilot (ATP and R-ATP) licenses were issued between 2019 and 2021. During that same time, approximately 9,671 pilots retired. Simply by the numbers, there remains a surplus of approximately 6,000 pilots available to meet the needs of the airlines.’ ”
Continental Flight 3407, operated by regional airline Colgan Air, crashed Feb. 12, 2009, in Clarence Center, not far from the Buffalo Niagara International Airport. All passengers and crew on board, as well as one person on the ground, died as a result of the crash, which was determined by the National Transportation Safety Board to be caused by pilot error.