Buffalo NY, July 10, 2023 – With both the House and Senate FAA Reauthorization bills approaching possible floor votes, the Families of Flight 3407 have stated their strong opposition to proposals in both bills to weaken the pilot qualifications requirements established in the 2010 FAA Reauthorization and Safety Act.
” We strongly reject any attempt to reduce or replace the current number of required flight hours with either simulator hours or classroom instruction” stated Scott Maurer of Palmetto Florida, who lost his 30- year- old daughter Lorin when Continental Flight 3407 crashed near the Buffalo, New York airport in 2009. “How many times do we need to point out that the current requirements are working? We counted on Congressmen Larson and Graves to support our position. Shame on them for agreeing to weakening these requirements by allowing simulator time to take the place of real flying experience. And we have been counting on Senators Cantwell and Thune to hold the line on any attempt at weakening the requirements in the Senate bill. If the final result allows for a substitution of classroom time for flight time, we will say shame on them too. We would rather see no bill passed than have one with either of these provisions.”
The group’s position was reinforced by Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth’s recent impassioned speech on the Senate floor, upholding the importance of the current pilot certification requirements. Reacting to the proposals in both bills to weaken them, Senator Duckworth, an Iraq war veteran who flew combat missions as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot, spoke about how her actual flying experience was a critical factor in her survival. Focusing on the House proposal to replace part of the in-flight hours required with simulator hours, Senator Duckworth stated: ” I would not be alive today but for the in-cockpit experience, gained through many hard-earned flight hours over a decade of training. It was an actual, real-world experience, not a flight simulation, that made us prepared and ready to respond to a life-threatening emergency with level heads and swift action. With instinct.”
She also noted that it was the 40,000 plus flight hours of experience between Captain Sully Sullenberger and his First Officer Jeff Skiles that were critical in saving 155 lives that day in January 2009. “Do you think that prior to that day there were any flight simulations of dual engine failure from a bird strike followed by ditching in the Hudson River? By any airline? By any flight school? No!”
Duckworth also addressed the recent surge in disturbing near misses that prompted the FAA to hold a safety summit and spurred an ongoing investigation by the NTSB to assess the possibility that these are indicators of commercial airlines’ vulnerability to a catastrophic crash.
“There has never been a worse time to consider weakening pilot certification requirements to produce LESS experienced pilots…we’ve witnessed a disturbing rise of near-deadly close calls that led the FAA to convene an unprecedented safety summit where the Acting Administrator warned that the entire aviation industry need not to grow complacent-because complacency kills.” She went on to say, “We must treat these unnerving near-misses as red flags and be proactive in strengthening safety requirements to make sure that these close calls do not become precursor events for a catastrophic accident.”
Duckworth further noted that weakening the pilot certification requirements would not solve the need for more pilots. Citing the lack of “credible projections” to show that a reduction in the 1500 flight hour requirement would make more pilots available, the Senator warned that ” a vote to reduce the 1500-hour rule for pilot training will mean blood on your hands when the inevitable accident occurs as a result of an inadequately trained flight crew.”
Members of the Flight 3407 Family Group have consistently maintained that the pilot qualification standard established in 2010 has been a critical factor in the establishment of the safest period in American aviation history. ” I have a simple message for those who find themselves considering voting for the provisions that would lessen the pilot qualification requirements” stated John Kausner, who lost his 24-year-old daughter Ellyce in the February 2009 crash. “Listen to the experts.” The best aviators in the country – Captain Sully Sullenberger, Captain Jeff Skiles and Senator Duckworth – adamantly say there is no substitute for time in the cockpit. We committed to our lost loved ones that in their memory, we would do all we could to save the lives of others by addressing the issues that caused their deaths. We cannot in good conscience agree to any lowering of the standards that have resulted in zero US commercial aviation crashes since the qualification standards were raised. These last 14 years are the safest period in American aviation history. Now is not the time for complacency and for tinkering with the standards to solve a business problem. We understand that everyone in DC is beholden to someone, be it business, industry or political pals. We are not. Our lost loved ones are our motivation, as is the safety of the flying public- not a corporate bottom line. We will continue to oppose any and all efforts to replace actual flight time hours with simulator time and/ or classroom time. We do this so that no one else will suffer the losses that we have, and we urge all of our representatives in Congress to do the right thing and oppose any attempt to change the pilot qualifications that are in place now.”