Flight 3407 Families Call for Swift Completion of Final Rule, No Caving to Stakeholder Pressure

Buffalo, New York – July 15, 2020 – The ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ responded swiftly to Tuesday’s public board meeting of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on the February 2019 Atlas Air cargo crash, which determined that slipshod aviation industry hiring practices and repeated delays by the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in implementing a pilot records database mandated by a 2010 safety law contributed to the fatal crash.  The group highlighted the NTSB’s findings (https://www.ntsb.gov/news/press-releases/Pages/NR20200714.aspx) and called on Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and FAA Administrator Stephen Dickson to lead their agencies to a prompt completion of the rulemaking project for the database, currently targeted for September 30th, 90 days after the June 30th close of the public comment period on the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM).

“We have had some positive dialogue with Secretary Chao and Administrator Dickson over the past fifteen months, but as the saying goes, ‘Actions speak louder than words’,” declared Scott Maurer of Palmetto, Florida, who lost his thirty-year-old daughter Lorin in the crash.  “You have two fatal crashes where the bottom line was that a pilot was in the cockpit who should not have been, had the airline fully vetted their entire training history.  Congress unanimously called for this database to rectify that problem, and it is inexcusable that ten years later, not only is it still not completed, but not having it in operation has led to another fatal crash.  There is a lot of stakeholder pressure on DOT and FAA to delay and water down this rule, but these NTSB findings clearly show that this rule needed to be in place yesterday, and that any modifications should only strengthen what has been proposed, not weaken it.  The election is coming, what a strong message this would send about safety if this was completed prior to that.”

The NTSB found that the first officer deliberately concealed multiple training deficiencies at previous employers, including his failure to upgrade to captain at his most recent airline, and that Atlas did not have a robust screening program in place to identify these shortcomings prior to his hire.  In regards to the FAA and its efforts to complete the pilot records database, the NTSB report stated, ‘Had the (FAA) met the deadline and complied with the requirements for implementing the pilot records database (PRD)… the PRD would have provided hiring employers relevant information about the first officer’s employment history and training performance deficiencies.’  Furthermore, the report states the ‘the manual process by which Pilot Records Improvement Act records are (currently) obtained could preclude a hiring operator from obtaining all background records for a pilot applicant, who fails to disclose a previous employer due to either deception or having resigned before being considered fully employed, such as after starting but not completing initial training.’
“The NTSB recommendations (https://www.ntsb.gov/news/events/Documents/2020-DCA19MA086-BMG-abstract.pdf) lay out what needs to be done by DOT and FAA as clear as day,” stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister and prominent 9/11 activist Beverly Eckert.  “Now it is time to step up to the plate and put the pilot records database into full operation, as well as take action on the other associated recommendations. Like our sister Beverly, we will stay vigilant and vocal until these serious issues are rectified – shame on all of us if we allow this mistake to result in a third highly preventable crash.”