Critical NTSB Safety Recommendations Would Not Take Effect Until Ten Years After 2009 Crash
Buffalo, New York- June 19, 2012 – In response to a recently-published Department of Transportation report that set October 19, 2013 as the new target date for the issuance of a critical final rule to enhance commercial air carrier pilot training plans, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ expressed their frustration with the DOT, FAA, and the White House Office of Management and Budget for dragging their feet on this rulemaking project, which was initiated back in 1999. These critical safety reforms, mandated by Congress in the landmark 2010 Airline Safety Act, were required to be completed by October 1, 2011. Even more egregious, publishing this training rule in late 2013 would mean that airlines would not be required to comply with the new training guidelines until the year 2019, more than ten years after the crash of Continental Flight 3407, due to a five-year compliance window written into the most-recently proposed version of the rule. This debate takes on heightened significance as acting FAA Administrator and Obama Administration nominee Michael Huerta is scheduled to appear in front of the Senate’s Commerce Committee for a confirmation hearing this Thursday. (Link to DOT Report: http://regs.dot.gov/rulemakings/201206/report.htm)
“Unconscionable is the word that comes to mind; my sister Beverly would be absolutely livid,” stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister and prominent 9/11 widow and activist Beverly Eckert. “Reforms spotlighted by the NTSB investigation, such as more robust stall and upset recognition and recovery training, need to be made mandatory for some of these shortcut-taking regional airlines sooner rather than later. We have been frustrated by the proposed training rule’s five-year compliance window from day one, but now to have the date for the FAA to even publish a final rule pushed back this far, just adds insult to injury. There have already been two rounds of proposed rules with public comment periods and extensions, and all indications from FAA were that there was only some minor refining left to be done. The NTSB and Congress have stepped up and pointed us in the right direction to address the training deficiencies at Colgan Air that contributed to this needless tragedy. It would be an absolute shame if history was allowed to repeat itself while waiting seven more years because of administrative red tape and delays like this, when the solutions are right there in front of us.”
The group drew haunting parallels to the twenty-five-plus year battle to enact new pilot flight and duty time guidelines, which were finally accomplished last December. In both cases, intense airline industry lobbying has been directed towards slowing down the FAA’s rulemaking process. Additionally, the group expressed its frustration at the bureaucratic ‘Bermuda Triangle,’ that exists somewhere between FAA, DOT, and OMB, which has made it difficult to finalize many of the safety reforms directed by Congress back in 2010.
“Once again we are reminded that we can never relax, and that we must read the fine print in each and every one of these monthly government reports, or else these lobbyists are going to run circles around us,” stated Scott Maurer of Moore, South Carolina, who lost his thirty year old daughter Lorin. “Am I supposed to accept that when it took the NTSB less than a year to complete its investigation, when it took Congress less than eighteen months to unanimously agree on this comprehensive safety bill, that it is going to take the FAA ten years to require a common-sense solution to improve how we train pilots on stalls? I have dedicated the past three years of my life to making sure another father doesn’t lose his daughter like I did, and it is infuriating that this rulemaking has been in the works for thirteen years and we just keep kicking the can down the road. Meanwhile, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the airlines and their lobbyists want to push as many of these reforms back to 2013 as possible, and that they’d love to see this project take another twenty-five years just like with pilot fatigue. Hopefully our collective voice will be a wake-up call to the powers-that-be in Washington to step up to the plate and do the right thing for safety.”