Fatigue and Training Are Immediate Issues; Pilot Qualifications and Training Record Database Loom Large in Background
Buffalo, New York- August 1, 2011 – In light of a missed deadline by the FAA on a key pilot fatigue rule and a report on the crash of Air France Flight 447 which cited pilot training deficiencies similar to those of Flight 3407, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ issued the following statement on the one-year anniversary of President Obama signing historic aviation safety legislation (HR 5900/PL 111-216: ‘The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act’) into law:
“One year ago Congress and President Obama took a major step in addressing the needless tragedy of Flight 3407 and the aviation safety flaws in our regional airline system that caused it. Although it was too late to bring back our loved ones, our group took solace in the fact that our diligent efforts to ensure that no other families should ever have to suffer the pain we endured were recognized, and that strong action was taken.
“At the time, we underlined the fact that the legislation would only be as strong as the regulations that came from it. Along those lines, the FAA was directed to complete seven rulemakings in critical areas such as pilot fatigue, training, qualification, and the creation of a new electronic training records database, as well as numerous other studies and reports to Congress. While no single initiative would have prevented Flight 3407, collectively HR 5900/PL 111-216 would represent major strides towards ensuring that our nation’s flying public, particularly on our regional airlines, was afforded critical protections that our loved ones sadly were denied when they boarded Continental (now United) Flight 3407, operated by Colgan Air, a subsidiary of Pinnacle Airlines Corporation.
“One year later, the FAA and Administrator Babbitt have taken positive steps in many areas, and have gone above and beyond to keep our group appraised of their progress along the way. For that we are extremely thankful.
“However, when it comes to rulemaking, there is no partial credit. Last fall, when the FAA issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for new pilot flight and duty time regulations, it was quick to highlight the fact that it did so in advance of a deadline mandated by our legislation. Today, August 1st, marks the deadline mandated for a final flight and duty time rule. Sadly the FAA has not met that mark on something that will make the schedules of regional airline pilots significantly safer from a fatigue standpoint, and bring us much closer to achieving a true ‘One Level of Safety’.
“Additionally, the FAA is in the midst of a key rulemaking project that will dramatically reform the way that our pilots are trained, particularly in the areas of stall and upset recognition and recovery. This was a key deficiency that contributed to the crash of Flight 3407. We could only shake our heads in wonderment last week when we read of the report on Air France Flight 447, which highlighted the fact that the pilots onboard were deficient in key areas that bore striking similarities to Flight 3407. Again, there is no partial credit here – we are counting on the FAA to drive this final rule to fruition.
“And we could go on and on about other critical issues such as pilot qualifications, commuting, and safety management systems. We understand all too well that rulemaking is often a cumbersome and laborious process. Unfortunately we also know that at every turn the FAA faces tremendous pushback from stakeholders, particularly the airlines, which would like nothing better than to delay and water down these regulations as much as possible.
“However, from the standpoint of safety and ensuring that the tragic loss of life on Flight 3407 is prevented from happening again, we repeat our mantra: “Failure is not an option”. We are counting on Administrator Babbitt and his agency to ‘do the right thing’, and just as importantly, to do so in a timely fashion. From wife and mother Kristin Safran to acclaimed musician Coleman Mellett to husband, father, and war veteran Doug Wielinski to everyone else who lost their life, their spirits are all staring down at us and demanding that a wrong be righted. And the next few months represent a critical juncture in ensuring that this is achieved. We will continue to remain vigilant and vocal in their memory.”