New Entry Level Requirement Guidelines for First Officers Will Help Level the Playing Field for Passengers on Regional Airlines
Buffalo, New York- November 15, 2012 – In response to recent propaganda efforts by the airline industry to pressure the FAA into watering down a rulemaking on entry level pilot qualifications due by next August, the ‘Families of Continental (now United) Flight 3407’ strongly condemned characterizations by the regional airline industry that stronger experience requirements would create a drastic pilot shortage, and called on the Obama administration to stand firm with its previously-announced proposal. “It is our sincere hope that OMB (the White House Office of Management and Budget), DOT, and FAA will see through this smokescreen and do the right thing for the flying public when they finalize this new rule,” stated Scott Maurer of Moore, South Carolina, who lost his thirty-year-old daughter Lorin.
“It is disheartening to see the Regional Airline Association testify in front of Congress and our group last April that they are on board and fully prepared to meet these requirements, and then turn around like this and try to paint a picture that the sky is falling. This legislation was a unanimously-supported bipartisan effort by Congress to ensure that regional airlines make the same commitment to and investment in safety as the major airlines, and we are counting on the Obama administration to execute Congress’s intent. If you are the regional airlines, you shouldn’t be complaining about older pilots retiring and other pilots moving to work in other countries when the root cause of the problem lies in paying your first officers $18,000 a year. Lorin and everyone else on the flight deserved so much better.”
The group praised a recent interview on CBS This Morning by Captain Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ in which he highlighted the necessity of the higher entry level requirements to raise the safety standards for regional airlines (http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-505263_162-57548236/airlines-reported-pilot-shortage-real-or-trumped-up/?tag=fdleft;fdmodule). The past decade has seen a significant disparity between the performance of the regional carriers and the major airline partners, as there has not been a fatal crash on a major airline since 2001, with all six fatal crashes in the interim occurring on regional carriers. Flight 3407 exposed significant safety deficiencies at the regional carrier Colgan Air, including the hiring and training of its pilots, as well as a lack of investment in industry-wide best practice safety programs. Seeking to address the deficiencies at Colgan and other regional carriers spotlighted by an NTSB investigation into the causes of the crash, Congress passed landmark aviation safety legislation in 2010.
“Beverly and the other victims learned the hard way that there will always be a temptation for a regional airline to try to win the ‘Race to the Bottom’ and adhere to the barest minimum safety standards possible, all in the interest of submitting the lowest possible bid,” stated Susan Bourque, of East Aurora, New York who lost her sister, Beverly Eckert, a noted 9/11 widow and activist. “That is why it is so important that OMB, DOT, and FAA come through with these new requirements that will significantly address the issues of experience, training, fatigue, and investment in safety management programs at some of these regional airlines. These proposed new Airline Transport Pilot license requirements will provide for both increased qualitative AND quantitative experience for entry-level pilots. As Captain Sullenberger emphasized in his interview and exemplified so well himself, experience truly does matter, and regional airline passengers deserve better than to be sitting in the back of the plane where a young first officer is still receiving a significant amount of his or her training on the job. It is sadly too late for us, but hopefully these strong new requirements will help us achieve this elusive ‘One Level of Safety’ between our nation’s major and regional carriers that has been so severely lacking in the past ten years.”