Buffalo, New York- January 14, 2010 – As the Senate reconvenes next week and the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ continue their push for the passage of the FAA Reauthorization bill, the group praised The Buffalo News for its recent four-part series (http://www.buffalonews.com/specialreports/whos_flying_your_airplane/) on the state of pilot experience and training, particularly at our nation’s regional airlines.
“This investigative reporting, both the articles and the graphics, provides great reinforcement for the message we have been preaching at the well over one hundred meetings we have had in Washington over the past eight months,” stated Scott Maurer of Moore, South Carolina, who lost his thirty year old daughter Lorin in the crash. “Namely, that all cockpits are not created equal when my daughter boards a plane that is painted in Continental colors but flown by Colgan Air pilots. If Lorin knew that a regional airline pilot was twice as likely to make a mistake as a major airline pilot, she probably would have driven to Buffalo. We can’t just sit back and allow this to happen again.”
The accident, on which the National Transportation Safety Board is expected to make its final determination of probable cause next month, revealed significant issues associated with pilot experience and training. At hearings held in May, questions were raised regarding the pilots’ training in cold weather operations and the plane’s stall recovery system, the fact that the pilots had failed multiple check flights and the airline had no system in place to monitor low-performing pilots, and the discovery that the captain had originally been hired with just over six hundred hours of flight time.
“This series brings to light all the dirty secrets of the industry, particularly in the way that the regional airlines take shortcuts when it comes to the experience of the pilots they hire and the training they provide to them,” added Mike Loftus of Vernon, New Jersey, a former commercial airline pilot with over twenty years of experience at Continental and Continental Express who lost his twenty four year old daughter Madeline. “I had to pay my dues and accumulate over two thousand hours of experience before I was entrusted with the responsibility for the lives of passengers on a commercial plane. Maddie and everyone else on that plane deserved so much better.”
The articles also framed the ongoing debate over current congressional legislation aimed at significantly strengthening the experience requirements for pilots to be hired by commercial airlines. The measure, already passed in the House and introduced in the Senate by Senator Charles Schumer of New York, would require all commercial airline pilots to have an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license, carrying additional qualitative requirements as well as an increase in the amount of flight hours a pilot must have to be hired.
“This accident revealed the need for a significant overhaul of our pilot licensing requirements,” declared Kevin Kuwik of Columbus, Ohio, the boyfriend of Lorin Maurer. “We cannot allow the regional airlines to continue to hire low-experience pilots and pay them next to nothing, or else we will continue to see a significant gap in the safety performance of the regionals versus the major carriers. And we have paid dearly for that gap.”