Airline Lobbyists Were First to Meet with White House Office of Management and Budget
Buffalo, New York- July 1, 2013 – With a key deadline in the landmark Airline Safety Act of 2010 looming just one month away, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ challenged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to stand up to airline lobbying efforts aimed at watering down a critical entry-level pilot qualifications final rule.
“It is coming down to crunch time, and no sooner had DOT sent the paperwork over to OMB than the lobbyists for A4A (Airlines for America) and RAA (Regional Airline Association) were scurrying over there to make sure they were the first to sit down with OMB,” stated Scott Maurer of Moore, South Carolina, who lost his thirty year-old daughter Lorin in the crash. “We went through this before with the flight and duty time rule, and in that case, the airlines were successful in getting FAA to water down the final rule from the initial proposal. We challenge Administrator Huerta and his colleagues at DOT and OMB to stand up to the airlines and make sure that this final rule accurately reflects Congress’s unanimous mandate that all entry-level regional airline first officers have a significantly stronger foundation prior to being hired, both in the quality of training and the amount of hands-on prior flight experience. The FAA’s proposal as written makes fair allowances for military pilots and those trained at 4-year accredited university aviation programs, and we are completely opposed to FAA lowering the bar any further in the final rule.”
In passing the ‘Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010’, Congress included multiple provisions intended to raise the safety standard for the nation’s regional airlines. Regional airlines now account for over 50 percent of our nation’s commercial flights on a daily basis, and the regionals have been responsible for every fatal crash since 2003. Key provisions of the Safety Act targeted regional airline deficiencies in the experience level of their new first officers, scheduling practices that contributed to pilot fatigue, and inadequacies in the initial and recurrent crewmember training provided by the regionals. Given FAA’s extensive track record of not meeting rulemaking deadlines, Congress included a default clause in the Safety Act that would require all new commercial first officers to have an Airline Transport Pilot license, the same rating required of captains, if FAA did not complete the rulemaking by August 1, 2013.
“We continue to remind everyone that raising the entry-level requirements for first officers was part of a larger plan by Congress to bring the regional airline’s commitment to, and investment in safety, on par with that of the major airlines – the true ‘One Level of Safety’ that my sister and everyone on that plane tragically did not receive,” stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister and prominent 9/11 widow and activist Beverly Eckert. “The airlines and their lobbyists have aggressively attempted to message this proposal as being unnecessary and the equivalent of pilots towing banners on a beach to gain the prerequisite number of hours. They conveniently overlook the two prongs of this initiative: combining a more robust pilot training certification program with additional hands-on flying experience that will give young pilots exposure to bad weather and other difficult operating conditions that they do not receive in flight school. But the airlines’ true motivation lies in their desire to preserve the status quo of regional airlines paying their first officers food stamp-level wages like what the first officer on Flight 3407 received. Hopefully FAA, DOT, and OMB are able to see right through that and come down on the side of safety and the flying public when they issue their final rule. As always, we will be watching closely.”