Ushered in Unprecedented Era of Aviation Safety; Pilot Record Database All That Remains to Be Finalized

Buffalo, New York – July 29, 2020 – Saturday, August 1st, 2020 will mark the 10th anniversary of President Barack Obama signing Public Law 111-216, ‘The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010’ into law.  The bill was unanimously approved by Congress, passing the House of Representatives by voice vote and the Senate by unanimous consent.  The results of the law speak for themselves; new rules aimed at regional airline safety have been implemented addressing first officer qualification requirements, pilot fatigue, safety management systems, and pilot training and professionalism, and there has not been a fatal commercial airline crash on a U.S. carrier since the tragedy of Flight 3407 in February 2009.  The only provision of the law remaining to be implemented requires the creation of a comprehensive electronic pilot record database to be used by carriers as a tool in the hiring process.  In conjunction with the anniversary, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ issue the following statement: 

This Saturday, August 1st, is a special day for our group.  Ten years ago, after nearly 18 months of relentlessly advocating for stronger regional airline safety measures, we were successful in getting landmark safety legislation signed into law.   

Thanks to the support of so many in Washington and across the nation, we were able to overcome millions of dollars spent by the airline lobby.  We remain eternally grateful to committee leadership and staffers who helped draft the bill – Senators Rockefeller, Hutchison, Dorgan, and DeMint, as well as Representatives Oberstar, Mica, Costello, and Petri.  Alongside their efforts, we had numerous champions on both sides of the Hill and both sides of the aisle, led by our Western New York delegation of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, and Representatives Slaughter, Higgins, and Lee.

The results of this legislation speak for themselves: over 11 years and counting of no fatal crashes on U.S. commercial carriers, the safest such period in our nation’s aviation history by over 3 times.  We know our loved ones are proudly looking down on our efforts.

However, the work is still not done.  The stronger new requirements that have already been implemented have undoubtedly made our aviation system the safest it has ever been.  But a key element of the law, the Pilot Record Database, remains incomplete, still waiting to be finalized by the FAA, Department of Transportation, and the Office of Management and Budget.  And tragically, the National Transportation Safety Board has found that this unacceptable delay contributed to a fatal Atlas Air cargo crash in February 2019. 

So on this 10 year anniversary, we call on Secretary Chao, FAA Administrator Dickson, and OMB Director Voight to honor the memory of our loved ones by bringing this database into operation posthaste.  We echo the letter sent last week by the current Western New York delegation of Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, and Representatives Higgins, Reed, and Morelle.  We cannot risk another preventable tragedy due to a pilot being hired without employer access to this common sense resource.

Finally and just as importantly, in the light of the economic hardships that the airlines are currently experiencing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, we are painfully reminded of the similar financial conditions that plagued the industry in the wake of 9/11.  These circumstances led to a loss of FAA vigilance and oversight, particularly in regards to our nation’s regional airlines, and the ensuing shortcuts and missteps that were allowed to be taken resulted in the very preventable crash of Flight 3407.  Let this occasion serve as a powerful reminder to our government and all industry stakeholders that the flying public is counting on them each and every day to avoid the temptation to cut corners, and to do the right thing when it comes to safety.