Press DOT/FAA on Database, Applaud Tough Questioning of Dickson, Remain Focused on FAA Oversight
Buffalo, New York – May 22, 2019 – Over ten years removed from the regional airline crash that tragically took the lives of their loved ones, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ continued their aviation safety advocacy in Washington last week by attending two congressional hearings, including the Senate confirmation hearing for Stephen Dickson to be FAA Administrator. The group also highlighted a bipartisan House letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Acting FAA Administrator Daniel Elwell addressing continued delays in the Pilot Records Database, led by the Western New York House delegation and signed by members representing ten different states.
“We can’t say enough about the leadership and support of our local Congressmen Higgins, Reed, Collins, and Morelle, as they have had our backs every step of the way,” declared John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty-four year old daughter Ellyce when the plane crashed less than a mile from their family home. “Along with our core group of signers who have been there every time that we have needed them, we are especially appreciative of Congressmen Billy Long of Missouri, Ross Spano of Florida, and Max Rose of New York, who all joined our cause for the first time. This pilot records database is a common-sense solution that has had broad bipartisan support from the first day it was introduced back in 2009, and it is absolutely critical to ensuring that there is full transparency in the pilot hiring process. Secretary Chao gave us her strongest assurances when we met with her in April that she would guide this long-overdue rule making project through to the finish line, and we are counting on her leadership and years of experience here in Washington to ensure that her team of FAA, DOT, and OMB finally accomplishes this mission.”
The group was also fully engaged in the confirmation hearing for Dickson, a retired Delta Airlines executive with experience as both an Air Force and commercial pilot. Dickson briefly met with group members prior to the hearing, and pledged to hold a more in-depth sit-down with the group in the future should he be confirmed as Administrator.
“We appreciated the opportunity for face time with nominee Dickson, as well as the kind words from both him and his family,” stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister and prominent 9/11 activist Beverly Eckert. “Obviously there are numerous issues for us to discuss with him, but undoubtedly, preserving the enhanced first officer qualification (FOQ) requirements is at the top of the list. We are very grateful for all the Senators who pressed him on this issue, both in the hearing and in their private meetings with him, particularly Senators Duckworth and Blumenthal. We feel confident that he will follow the lead of Secretary Chao and uphold these critical safety standards in the absence of any further Congressional directives. Finally, we fully support Senator Peters’ strong line of questioning regarding the degradation of pilots’ manual flying skills in this era of ever-advancing automation. There seems to be such a push worldwide to rush young pilots into commercial airline cockpits by focusing on the bare minimums of managing and relying on the technology that these planes are equipped with, but our partnership with Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Skiles of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ has clearly shown us the value of experience when it comes to decision-making and stick-and-rudder skills. We are counting on Nominee Dickson to continue to place a strong emphasis on this area.”
Finally, the group attended the House Aviation Subcommittee’s hearing on the status of the Boeing 737 Max, which included a deep dive into the effectiveness of the FAA’s oversight of Boeing in the certification process.
“Obviously we like to stay in our lane of regional airline safety, as opposed to certification or anything else, when it comes to our advocacy,” stated Scott Maurer of Palmetto, Florida, who lost his thirty-year-old daughter Lorin in the crash. “But the advice of Senator Dorgan in the initial aftermath of our crash – to always show up – continues to resonate with us. Yes, we are concerned that some of the FAA’s missteps in its oversight of Colgan Air over ten years ago have reared their ugly head once again in the FAA’s dealings with Boeing regarding the certification of the 737 Max. But more importantly, we hope that our constant presence at these hearings serve as a reminder to the committee leadership, members, and staffers, as well as to agency officials and airline and pilot representatives, that every member of the American flying public is counting on them to maintain their vigilance and be at the top of their games every single day. It is too late for Terry and me, and for everyone else who needlessly lost a loved one on Flight 3407. But we continue to fight to ensure that Lorin and the rest of the victims did not die in vain.”