Action comes as SkyWest Makes appeal & regional airlines are set to testify
Congress members Brian Higgins and Nick Langworthy are “fighting the latest attempt to circumvent flight safety standards put in place following the crash of Flight 3407,” Higgins’ team said.
In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, the members are asking the department to deny a request by SkyWest Airlines to reclassify operations, which the leaders said is “yet another attempt by regional carriers to undermine the lifesaving First Officer Qualification rules.”
Higgins and Langworthy argue the company’s request “means they will be able to operate at a substantially lower level of safety, using substantially less trained first officer pilots.”
A press release stated, “Following the tragic crash of Flight 3407 on Feb. 12, 2009, Congress and the families of Flight 3407 helped to deliver major safety reforms in the Federal Aviation Administration Act of 2010. These included measures addressing pilot fatigue, consumer transparency, the pilot records database, and pilot training requirements, including the 1,500-hour rule.”
The Congress members said the SkyWest application to conduct scheduled passenger operations as a commuter air carrier “is designed to bypass pilot training standards including the 1,500-hour rule, a move that will not only impact this carrier but ‘will create a precedent for rural air service to operate at a lower safety threshold, making Americans less safe.’ ”
The letter comes as the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee has its next hearing on Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) authorization scheduled for Wednesday, April 19. The CEO of the Regional Airlines Association is scheduled to testify. Also appearing as a witness is the president of the Air Line Pilots Association, who previously testified in support of preserving flight safety standards put in place through the 2010 FAA Reauthorization, and visited Western New York earlier this year on the anniversary of the Flight 3407 tragedy.
Some of the Flight 3407 families plan to attend the upcoming hearing in Washington, D.C.
“There has not been a fatal crash on a U.S. carrier in over 14 years since Flight 3407, and prior to that, we had never even made it three years without such a crash," said Susan Bourque of East Aurora, who lost her sister, Beverly Eckert, a prominent 9/11 widow and activist. "Clearly, the increased pilot experience standards are working, and to allow any regional airline to circumvent these requirements would be totally irresponsible."
The last FAA reauthorization in 2018 extended FAA’s funding and authorities through fiscal year 2023. Congress will continue to debate measures included in FAA reauthorization this year.