Buffalo, New York – January 20, 2021 – With Joe Biden set to be sworn in as the 46th President of the United States, and the Senate Commerce Committee scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing on former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be Secretary of Transportation on Thursday, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ issued an urgent plea for the new administration to commit to prioritizing the safety of the American traveling public.
“As this new administration is seated, it is not lost on us that there are strong parallels between the economic challenges that we have been dealt by the current pandemic, and what our nation faced nearly twenty years ago in the aftermath of 9/11, particularly in regards to the commercial aviation sector,” stated Scott Maurer of Palmetto, Florida, who lost his thirty year old daughter Lorin, an athletic department fundraiser at Princeton University. “Back then, those circumstances set off a chain reaction which led to our government essentially looking the other way as some of our nation’s regional airlines embarked on a ‘Race to the Bottom’, culminating in the tragic crash of Flight 3407. It is our fervent hope that our efforts over the last twelve years, as well as those of the Boeing 737 Max families and all others who have lost loved ones in aviation tragedies, send a strong message that we cannot give in to these industry pressures and allow for any more shortcuts to be taken. Every American who boards a commercial flight, as well as their family and friends, is counting on this administration to do the right thing when it comes to standing up for safety.”
Continental Flight 3407, operated by Colgan Air, crashed into a house outside of Buffalo, New York on February 12th, 2009, taking the lives of all 49 on board, as well as one man on the ground. In the subsequent National Transportation Safety Board investigation, it was found that numerous safety gaps at Colgan Air relating to its hiring, scheduling, training, and resourcing of pilots, contributed to the crash. Most notably, the captain was found to have falsified his hiring application, not disclosing multiple training deficiencies, a glaring safety shortcoming of a pen-and-paper-based record keeping system.
“The pilot record database is a bipartisan, common sense solution that was unanimously approved by Congress, and should have been in place long ago,” declared Ken Mellett of McLean, Virginia, who lost his thirty four year old son, Coleman, a jazz guitarist in the Chuck Mangione Band. “To sit at a Senate hearing and listen to the CEO testify that this pilot would not have been hired had the airline had access to his complete training record is absolutely heartbreaking for MaryElllen and me, and for everyone else who lost a loved one. With the technological tools that we have at our disposal in this day and age, it is unthinkable and unacceptable that nearly 12 years have passed and this project still has not been fully implemented. We are appreciative of Secretary Chao and her people for their efforts on our behalf, and we are counting on the incoming team at the Department of Transportation to work with Administrator Dickson and FAA, as well as the Office of Management and Budget, to push this over the finish line.”
The pilot record database was part of Public Law 111-216, ‘The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010’, landmark aviation safety legislation geared toward our nation’s regional airlines, which was unanimously passed by Congress in August 2010. The pilot record database is the final remaining mandate of the law, which has already seen new regulations issued in the areas of pilot qualifications, training, fatigue, and mentoring, as well as airline safety management systems. Next month will mark the 12th anniversary of the crash, which is the last fatal commercial airline crash to occur on a U.S. carrier. Prior to that, our nation had never made it 3 years without such a fatal crash.
“We realize that there are contrasting political philosophies when it comes to regulations, but it is our strong hope that this rule does not get bogged down in the bureaucracy during this period of transition between administrations,” stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert, a prominent 9/11 widow and activist. “When we met with Senator Dorgan back in May 2009, he advised us to show up at every hearing related to aviation safety to make sure that our loved ones and our cause were never forgotten. We took that advice to heart and have made over eighty trips to Washington since then. Unfortunately, the pandemic will prevent us from attending Secretary-Designate Buttigieg’s confirmation hearing in person tomorrow. However, we pray that our message will be heard, and as we mark the 12th anniversary of Flight 3407 next month, that the memory of our loved ones will be honored with the completion of the final requirement of this safety law.”