Buffalo, New York- December 17, 2009 – In response to last week’s Senate Aviation Subcommittee Hearing and a meeting with Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood and Federal Aviation Administration Adminstrator Randy Babbitt, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ issued the following statement.
“We are appreciative of the efforts of Senator Dorgan and his subcomittee, as well as those of Secretary LaHood and Administrator Babbitt, to keep the multitude of issues that were revealed by this preventable tragedy in the spotlight. More importantly, we are counting on them to act quickly and decisively to close the gaps that this tragedy exposed in the areas of training, commuting, pilot qualifications and hiring, and the investment in safety programs at the regional airline level.
The issue of requiring an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license for all commercial airline pilots, particularly First Officers at the regional airlines, is something that we feel is very important to the safety of the flying public. It has overwhelmingly passed in the House, and has been championed by Senator Schumer in the Senate. The ATP license not only will significantly increase the flight experience of new commercial pilots from 250 to 1,500 hours, it will ensure that they have met additional requirements in terms of flying in a variety of conditions including instrument, nighttime, and cross-country, as well as additional check flight and academic experiences from a qualitative standpoint.
We strongly believe that being a commercial airline pilot, no matter the quality of the training received by the pilot, should not be an entry level job. Unfortunately in the last five years the regional airlines have acted otherwise, putting increasingly inexperienced pilots in the right seats of their cockpits, to the great benefit of their bottom line and to the great detriment of the flying public. Consequently, they leave our government with no choice but to significantly raise the current minimum standards, which are unacceptably low.
We certainly agree with Administrator Babbitt’s plan to develop endorsements for specific pilot skills such as multi-crew and cold weather operations to ensure that all commercial pilots have the necessary competencies to safely transport precious human lives across our country and around the world. However, this proposal should not be considered to be mutually exclusive of the ATP requirement, and we fear that treating it as such is just an excuse to once again ‘go easy’ on the industry. For the last eight years, that is exactly the mentality that put us in the predicament we are currently in, and that robbed us of our loved ones.
Our goal remains to have an airline industry which ‘Puts the best pilots in the cockpit, and sets them up for success.’ The ATP requirement will go a long way towards making this dream a reality, and we are challenging Secretary LaHood and Administrator Babbitt, as well as Senator Dorgan and all his fellow senators, to stand up to the industry and do what’s right in the name of all passengers, and in the memory of the lives needlessly lost last February 12th.”