Buffalo, New York- March 8, 2010 – As the Senate prepares to take the the FAA Reauthorization Bill to the floor and address many of the safety deficiencies at the regional airline level that were uncovered by the tragedy of Continental Flight 3407, the families of the victims urged the Senate leadership to not give the FAA carte blanche when it comes to revising the current shockingly low federal minimum standards.
“Since last fall, we have watched the FAA miss deadline after deadline with its training and fatigue rulemakings,’ stated Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert. “The fatigue rulemaking has seemingly dragged on for decades, while the training effort is approaching the six year mark. With the first wave of sixty five year old pilots quickly approaching mandatory retirement, we can’t afford to wait another five to ten years for the FAA to address this very critical issue of pilot qualifications. Otherwise we will have a flood of eager three hundred hour pilots getting hired into the regional airline workforce. They won’t have the maturity to challenge their captains when needed, nor the experience in cold weather, and we will be setting ourselves up for another Flight 3407 to occur.”
Bourque was referring to the current FAA standard that allows students coming out of FAA-approved flight programs to be hired with as little as one hundred ninety flight hours. And her comments also pointed to NTSB Chairman Debbie Hersman’s statement at the Flight 3407 public hearing that ‘experience and maturity (in the First Officer seat) was needed to intervene’ in the cockpit of Flight 3407 as an improper reaction to an aerodynamic stall took place.
“Unless the Senate takes a stand and sends the FAA some strong guidance in raising these standards, the industry will continue to bully the FAA into watered down regulations, if rulemakings even get completed in the first place,” added Kevin Kuwik, of Columbus, Ohio, who lost his girlfriend Lorin Maurer. “There is no need to reinvent the wheel here; while the FAA slogs through these very important efforts with training and flight and duty time regulations, the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license provides an already-established solution. It is not so much that new first officers have a certain quantity of hours, but rather the right kind of hours – cross country, night, and instrument only. It allows us to ensure that a commercial airline job is not a young inexperienced pilot’s entry level job, and it can be implemented in a timely fashion to ensure that a much higher standard is in place for the next hiring wave.”