Calls on Congress to Investigate This Breach of Responsibility to the Flying Public
Buffalo, New York- October 25, 2011 – In the midst of an aviation safety crusade that has encompassed over forty trips to Washington to fight for stronger standards and oversight of regional airlines, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ lashed out at Colgan Air over the release of internal company email correspondence that once again brought the training credentials of Flight 3407’s pilot into question. Kevin Kuwik, who lost his thirty-year-old girlfriend Lorin Maurer in the crash, and is not party to any legal action against Colgan or Pinnacle, issued the following statement calling on Congress to investigate why Colgan was not completely forthcoming in initially providing this documentation to NTSB investigators over two-and-a-half years ago:
“Once again, Friday’s email revelation ripped open old wounds for myself and all of us, as we are once again reminded that this tragedy was very preventable on the part of Colgan Air, and that Lorin and every other victim that night should still be brightening our lives each and every day. No matter how hard Colgan may try to lay this squarely at the feet of the crew and their actions that night, we have learned that Colgan’s approach to training and safety prior to the crash certainly left a lot to be desired, and this revelation is just one more unfortunate example of that.
“For over two years now, I and other members of our group have dedicated ourselves to the cause of ensuring that our flying public has a true ‘One Level of Safety’, and that the likes of Colgan and Pinnacle, and all of our nation’s regional airlines, make the same commitment to, and investment in safety and training as their parent carriers do. Critical to this process was the NTSB investigation in the months immediately following the crash, which exposed many of the safety deficiencies on the part of Colgan/Pinnacle, and led to numerous safety recommendations, Congressional hearings, and ultimately the signing into law of P.L. 111-216, ‘The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010,’ which has been called the most significant piece of aviation safety legislation in the last fifty years.
“In investigating accidents like Flight 3407, the NTSB utilizes a party process, which is heavily reliant on the airlines, manufacturers, and pilot associations that are involved in such a catastrophe. We have nothing but praise for the NTSB’s yeoman efforts in completing this thorough investigation and final report in less than a year, which has given tremendous impetus to our efforts to achieve much-needed reforms with our nation’s regional airlines. And yet we must not lose sight of the fact that a process like this can certainly call into question the motives of these participating parties who have so much at stake in what the ultimate findings of the investigation are and the determinations that are made in regard to the probable and contributing causes.
“However, regardless of what is at stake in such an investigation, the number one obligation of each and every involved party must be its responsibility to the flying public, and to the cause of ensuring that every possible safety lesson is learned from such a tragedy. And so I find it absolutely inexcusable that Colgan Air did not provide this documentation to the NTSB as part of its initial study of why this crash occurred; certainly the process by which the captain was initially ruled out for upgrade to the Q-400 and then seemingly fast-tracked such a short time later warranted thorough discussion and cross-examination at the NTSB’s public hearing in May 2009, and this email likely would have driven that effort. In an industry where there are dynamics of economic challenges, frequent management-labor tension, and forecasted pilot shortages in the future, these internal Colgan deliberations would have certainly spotlighted the issue of how all airlines, particularly regional airlines, screen and select pilots for upgrades. There can be no disagreement over the fact that occupying the left seat in the highly-sophisticated airplanes of today, with human lives entrusted to one’s care, is a privilege and not a right.
“So in the interest of being forward-looking and attempting to prevent this from happening again, I am calling on Congress, on behalf of our group and everyone else who flies, to get to the bottom of this egregious breach of responsibility in regards to the NTSB’s investigation process. We cannot have involved parties suppressing valuable information for over two-and-a-half years and preventing the NTSB from fully doing its job. I find it to be an insult to the memory of Lorin and everyone else who perished that night, and a blatant disregard for the American flying public, for Colgan and Pinnacle to put the avoidance of legal responsibility ahead of being completely transparent so that every possible critical safety lesson can be learned. It is too late for each and every one of us who has suffered a terrible loss, but we remain completely dedicated to doing everything in our power to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again.”