Collins, Higgins, Reed, Slaughter Fight Against Watering Down Pilot Training Requirements

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) and 18 additional Members of Congress sent a letter to United States Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Chao and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Huerta expressing concern and disappointment with recommendations to modify and repeal pilot training rules. Suggested changes from the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) would reduce the training and experience requirements specified in the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010. Since the passage of this legislation, and enactment of a rule requiring pilots have 1,500 training hours, there have been zero fatalities on commercial airlines.

The bipartisan action to achieve one level of safety among our nation’s regional and mainline carriers was sparked in 2009 by the tragic crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Clarence Center, NY. ARAC claims that the pilot training qualifications impose more costs than benefits to regional airlines, although since implementation of qualification rules the United States has experienced the safest period in aviation history.

“Thanks to the families of Flight 3407, our skies have been safe for the last seven years because of enhanced training requirements,” said Collins. “We will not give up on our fight to keep these requirements in place. If the regional airlines want to recruit more pilots they should offer better wages and better working conditions.”

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) said, “Industry decisions should be based on public safety, not industry profits. Pilot training concessions come at the expense of human life. Hard-fought reforms, championed by the Flight 3407 families, have resulted in no further lives lost and safer skies for everyone.  We will fight to keep it that way.”

“We will always remember the tragedy that took the lives of so many in the crash of Flight 3407. We will continue to honor their memory by standing with their loved ones to enhance flight safety regulations. We need to keep these important reforms in place to prevent such fatalities from occurring in the future. I am happy to join with my colleges to urge Secretary Chao to not reverse these important regulations,” said Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23).

“It is because of the tireless work of Flight 3407 families that we were able to pass into law new standards mandating that every pilot, whether regional or commercial, is well-trained and well-rested,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25). “These families have turned their immeasurable grief and loss into action that has protected the life of every person who gets on an airplane. There hasn’t been a single fatal regional airline crash since these measures were enacted, and it is inconceivable that these safeguards could be put on the chopping block by the administration. This is perfect example of why efforts to erase regulations that protect the health and safety of all Americans are so dangerous. We must protect the gains we’ve made and the safety of all air travelers.”

Full text of the letter can be read below:

September 15, 2017

The Honorable Elaine Chao
Secretary
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, D.C. 20590

The Honorable Michael Huerta
Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20591

Dear Secretary Chao and Administrator Huerta:

Earlier this year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tasked the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) to suggest potential reforms of current regulations.  As you know, ARAC’s initial recommendations were finalized yesterday, September 14, 2017.

We are writing you today to express our concern and disappointment with the inclusion in the  final report to modify and repeal elements of Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 121.436 (14 CFR 121.436).  In 2010, 14 CFR 121.436 was codified in law through the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 (PL.111-216).  From pilot fatigue guidelines to new training methods for pilots, this law has helped achieve One Level of Safety among our nation’s regional and mainline carriers and gone a long way in preventing accidents like that of Flight 3407.

This bipartisan action to prioritize aviation safety was sparked by the tragic crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 seven years prior in Clarence Center, N.Y.  There is no valid argument that this legislation has not kept our flying public safe.  Since the passage of this legislation and the enactment of these Pilot Qualification Hours, there have been zero fatalities on commercial airliners.  This period of over eight years with no fatal crashes represents the longest such period in U.S. aviation history by over three times.

We take issue with ARAC’s reasons to modify and repeal the qualification hours stating that the rule imposes costs that exceed benefits and that it eliminates jobs or inhibits job creation.  You cannot put a value on the life of a person; the countless number of lives that have been saved because we have safer pilots certainly outweighs any monetary cost associated with this rule.

Further, the qualification hours have been in place since 2013, giving pilots and airlines ample time to comply with this regulation. Claims that changes to this rule are necessary to ameliorate a supposed pilot shortage ignore the meager salaries and less-than-ideal working conditions that have been characteristic of regional airlines for well over two decades.  These historical factors are the true drivers of any difficulties that these airlines may be having in attracting qualified first officer applicants.

We thank you for your continued cooperation and efforts to ensure safe travel aboard all airlines and we urge that these stricter first officer qualification training and experience requirements which were unanimously enacted by Congress seven years ago are preserved in their current form.

Sincerely,

Rep. Chris Collins
Rep. Brian Higgins
Rep. Carol Shea-Porter
Rep. Glenn ‘G.T.’ Thompson
Rep. Gwen Moore
Rep. Jerrold Nadler
Rep. Josh Gottheimer
Rep. Bill Pascrell
Rep. Kevin Brady
Rep. Lee Zeldin
Rep. Leonard Lance
Rep. Louise Slaughter
Rep. Mark DeSaulnier
Rep. Pete King
Rep. Salud O. Carbajal
Rep. Walter B. Jones
Rep. Ruben Gallego
Rep. Tom Reed

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