Buffalo, New York- July 5, 2010 – With the FAA Reauthorization Bill’s fate hanging in the balance for one more month after Congress passed a thirty-day extension last week, determined members of the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ are set to take their message on the road to the home turf of Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller and House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar during this week-long congressional recess.
Family members will head to Charleston, West Virginia on Wednesday, July 7th for a noon press conference to spotlight the safety initiatives they are seeking as part of the FAA Bill. They will be joined by Jeff Skiles, the co-pilot for the January 2009 ‘Miracle on the Hudson’, who has been a leading advocate for the requirement that all commercial airline pilots possess an Air Transport Pilot (ATP) license prior to being hired.
‘We are very appreciative of Chairman Rockefeller’s leadership in getting the FAA Reauthorization Bill passed by the Senate back in March,’ stated John Kaunser of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty four year old daughter Ellyce in the crash. ‘Now we need him to help guide this bill through the final mile to the President’s desk, and in particular, we hope that the Senate will accept the House’s ATP provision that will greatly increase the experience level of all First Officers on regional airlines. Every time I am with Jeff Skiles I become more determined to make sure that every passenger on a regional airline gets as much experience and professionalism in the cockpit as possible.’
After Wednesday’s event in Charleston, group members will head to Oberstar’s 8th Congressional District in Minnesota, where they have connected with family members from the December 1993 Northwest Airlink Flight 5719 commuter airline crash in Hibbing, Minnesota, which took the lives of all eighteen people on board. They will hold a noon press conference on Thursday at the Duluth International Airport, followed by a 2 pm press conference at the Chisholm-Hibbing Airport.
‘It is eerie to note the similarities between Flight 5719 and Flight 3407, right down to the airline’s negligence in monitoring their pilots’ performance records, allowing for improper procedures in the cockpit, and the FAA’s inadequate oversight of regional airlines,’ added Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister and noted 9/11 activist Beverly Eckert. ‘It is heart-breaking to think that these lessons were not learned over the course of sixteen years. Chairman Oberstar’s committee took a hard look at our tragedy last summer and has come up with comprehensive solutions that we believe will help address these issues with regional airline safety. Now for both our families and the Flight 5719 families in his own district, we pray that he can lead this bill to final passage, and give us all a small measure of comfort that we have done something to keep this from happening again.’
These trips are another part of what has been a fourteen month effort since last May’s National Transportation Safety Board’s public hearing on Flight 3407, as the group has passionately advocated for stronger safety measures. The group has made over thirty trips to Washington, met with President Barack Obama, Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, Federal Aviation Adminstration Adminstrator Randy Babbitt, and the offices of over one hundred senators and representatives.
‘As this bill has gotten closer to getting passed, we have seen all the special interest vultures come out of the woodwork in Washington, and they certainly have a lot more money to throw around than we do,’ stated Scott Maurer, of Moore, South Carolina, who lost his thirty year old daughter Lorin. ‘And it just gets harder and harder to find ways to get the attention back on what this bill really should be about, and that is safety. So we are just going to keep knocking on these doors until our prayers are answered and this bill is passed.’