Buffalo, New York- October 29, 2009 – The ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ continued their drive in the Senate for higher pilot qualification standards, attending a hearing held by the Senate Aviation Subcommittee, and meeting with a host of key players regarding the aviation safety provisions in the Senate’s Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act.
The focal points of the trip were sit-down meetings with the leadership of the Aviation Subcommittee, Chairman Byron Dorgan (ND) and Ranking Member Jim DeMint (SC), who authored key safety language in the FAA Bill and have called multiple public hearings to examine the array of safety issues that contributed to the tragedy of Continental Flight 3407.
“We are very appreciative of Senators Dorgan and DeMint giving us the chance to make our argument for higher pilot experience standards, particularly at the regional airline level. They were very receptive to our cause, and we are counting on their continued leadership in this crusade to make airline travel even safer,” stated Kevin Kuwik of Columbus, Ohio, who lost his girlfriend Lorin Maurer on Flight 3407. “Senator Dorgan shared with us the extensive amount of travel he does on regional airlines getting to and from North Dakota, and Senator DeMint is very aware that the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport in his home state receives one of the highest percentages of regional air service of any airport in the country. Clearly the requirement for all commercial airline pilots to have an Airline Transport Pilot license will benefit the traveling public not only in their home states, but across the nation as well.”
The group met with representatives for Arizona Senator John McCain, New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg, and Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns as well.
“Senator McCain is a former Navy pilot who worked closely with our sister Beverly in her advocacy after 9/11. As this bill gets to the floor, we believe he can lend a great voice of support to our efforts,” added Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, referring to her sister, 9/11 widow Beverly Eckert. “Senators Lautenberg and Johanns are both on the Aviation Subcommittee and have been very outspoken at all the hearings held this summer about the need to increase our standards in the aviation industry, particularly at the regional airline level. They know how crucial we believe this ATP requirement is in terms of safety.”
Despite much progress in getting the issues that led to this tragedy addressed in proposed legislation, the group is still frustrated that the bill has been awaiting its portion from the Finance Committee for over three months while the specter of health care casts a large shadow in the Senate.
“Our goal remains to be standing behind President Obama when he signs this legislation into law, and all along we have been aiming for before Christmas,” concluded Kuwik. “But despite our best efforts, this bill seems to be dying a slow death in the Senate. Clearly what we have been doing in this regard has not been effective enough, so we need to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new approach to get things moving again. Heaven forbid it takes another tragedy before the Senate decides to step up and take action.”