Flight and Duty Time, Commuting, Pilot Records Database, and NTSB Recommendations in the Spotlight
Buffalo, New York- July 19, 2011 – With August 1st looming as a key date for many of the aviation safety initiatives directed by PL 111-216, “The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010”, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ highlighted some key areas upon which congressional watchdogs and the media need to focus.
“August 1st marks both one year since this historic legislation was enacted and more importantly, nearly thirty months since the tragic crash of Flight 3407,” stated John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty-four year old daughter Elly. “Every day that passes without these measures being implemented poses a potential risk to the traveling public, and we want to do everything we can to make sure that the FAA maintains a sense of urgency on these critical rulemakings and other initiatives, so that these reforms are accomplished sooner rather than later. Additionally, we know that the rulemaking committees who advise the FAA on many of these projects are composed of stakeholders who have strong self-interests in how these final rules are written, and we are counting on the FAA to see past this and put the safety of the passengers first in shaping these regulations.”
The family group put the strongest emphasis on the issue of pilot fatigue, both on the FAA’s efforts to issue a final rule on new pilot flight and duty time regulations, as well as the agency’s next steps in response to the recently-released report on pilot commuting and its relationship to fatigue, a critical factor with Flight 3407.
“After two decades of trying and numerous false starts and misfires, this new flight and duty time rule would be a giant step forward for safety, particularly in regards to alleviating some of the potentially risky scheduling done with regional airline pilots,” added Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, who lost her sister and 9/11 widow and activist Beverly Eckert. “Just as important however, we need to keep up the focus on the dangers of commuting, as neither the airlines nor the pilots seemingly have much interest in addressing this serious issue. Is it too much to ask for an airline to identify which of its pilots have potentially difficult commutes and take measures to mitigate those risks? We might not be having this discussion if this had been done in our case in the first place.”
The group also weighed in on one of the FAA’s more extensive undertakings in the wake of the Flight 3407 crash, the creation of an electronic pilot records database, to ensure that every airline has complete and accurate information in making hiring decisions. This provision was introduced in response to the NTSB’s investigation which revealed that both pilots on Flight 3407 had training deficiencies which Colgan Air claimed it was not aware of when it hired them.
“Never again should another group of families have to listen to an airline’s excuse that it didn’t have access to every piece of information possible in making a hire,” stated Scott Maurer of Moore, South Carolina, who lost his thirty-year-old daughter Lorin. “The only focus of this rulemaking effort should be doing what is right and fair for the passengers flying on those planes, not what any of the stakeholders want or don’t want, and that includes the pilots as well. This is one of the issues that the aviation subcommittees in both houses spoke about loud and clear in a bipartisan voice, and we are really looking to Administrator Babbitt to not lose sight of that strong congressional intent.”
Finally the group set its sights on the upcoming FAA report to Congress on all outstanding NTSB safety recommendations. In their initial research into the FAA’s track record in responding to NTSB safety recommendations in the wake of previous crashes, the family members were shocked to learn that the NTSB rated as ‘Unacceptable’ nearly seventy five percent of the FAA’s responses to safety recommendations on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt pledged to address that issue at multiple congressional hearings.
“Obviously HR 5900 (PL 111-216), if fully implemented, will address many of the NTSB’s crucial recommendations that are geared towards ensuring that there is not a repeat of Flight 3407,” stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, another sister of Beverly Eckert. “However, there are some recommendations that are either not addressed or not fully addressed, and we are eager to learn the FAA’s course of action in these areas, as well as how the NTSB rates their responses. Again, we continue to fight to ensure that every passenger, particularly those on regional airlines, are afforded some of the common-sense protections that our loved ones tragically were not provided.”