ATA, Cargo and Non-Scheduled Carriers Pull Out All Stops to Pressure White House to Back Down on Babbitt and LaHood’s Top Safety Priority
Buffalo, New York- September 6, 2011 – With the White House seemingly in gridlock and already late in meeting a Congressional deadline for issuing a new pilot flight and duty time regulation, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ lashed out at the airline industry and its lobbying arm for their continued efforts to fight this critical safety initiative.
“Once again, we see what a David-and-Goliath struggle we face trying to address some of the glaring safety gaps in our aviation system,” stated Scott Maurer of Moore, South Carolina, who lost his 30 year old daughter Lorin. “The industry had free reign for all those years, and now when someone tries to rectify an issue, they trot out all their lobbyists with their fancy charts and one-sided statistics and cry wolf. First they tried to use campaign contributions and political influence to get Congress to do their bidding. When that didn’t work, now they are wearing out the Office of Management and Budget with meeting after meeting. It is absolutely shameful that they are fighting tooth-and-nail against such a common-sense safety reform, while the little people like us on the side of safety have no chance of matching their immense resources.”
Reducing pilot fatigue has been at the top of the NTSB’s Most Wanted List for over twenty years, and the FAA has been attempting to rewrite its archaic pilot scheduling guidelines for nearly as long. Every effort to-date has been essentially neutralized by industry opposition. In the aftermath of the crash of Flight 3407 in February 2009, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt made issuing new science-based scheduling requirements their top priority. Congress with a rare nearly unanimous vote agreed, and mandated that new flight and duty time regulations be published by August 1, 2011, a date that has come and gone as the proposed final rule sits with the Administration’s Office of Management and Budget.
“If there was a simple, cost-free, and painless solution to this problem, it would have been implemented years ago,” added Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, who lost her sister and prominent 9/11 widow and activist Beverly Eckert. “The reality of the situation is that there is going to have to be shared sacrifice among the carriers, pilots, and even passengers to achieve these critical reforms, but we paid the ultimate price in learning that safety must always come first. There is flexibility within these guidelines to allow carriers to meet their different operational requirements, but they refuse to acknowledge that framework. Meanwhile, we have regional airline pilots getting stretched to the limit with potentially high-risk schedules, and these carriers are doing everything they can to obstruct this process and kick the can down the road for another ten or fifteen years. Twenty years has been way too long already; we are counting on the Administration to stand up to this bullying and do the right thing for safety.”