≡ Menu

Senator asks FAA not to water down new pilot safety regulations

Senator Charles Schumer of New York sent a letter to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt yesterday asking the administrator not to dilute recently proposed pilot safety regulations. The new regulations were drafted on the heels of the Colgan Air crash near Buffalo, New York that happened two years ago this week. Schumer’s letter was a rebuttal to a letter sent to by the President of the ATA, Nicholas Calio, to the FAA asking for a loosening of the new crew rest rules for commercial pilots. Schumer also sent a letter to Calio responding to his claims. The text of the two letters are re-printed below.

February 13, 2011

Dear Administrator Babbitt:

I write to express deep concern with a recent effort by the airline industry to weaken aviation safety regulations currently being promulgated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In a recent letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Air Transport Association (ATA) expressed concern regarding the potential “financial and business impact” of FAA’s proposed fatigue and crewmember training rules for airlines. As you are finalizing these important rules, I urge you to keep the safety of the public as your top priority.

Two years ago this week, Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo, New York and claimed fifty lives. Pilot error was cited as a leading factor in that accident, and we know that the copilot complained of fatigue during the flight, which may have affected her performance. From this accident, we learned that more needs to be done to ensure pilots and copilots are properly trained and fully rested before taking to the skies. In the wake of this tragedy, the families of those who lost their lives in the crash came together to work on legislation and regulations to overhaul FAA safety standards, including pilot training and fatigue rules. These courageous families fought to improve FAA safety standards to make the skies safer for us all.

The ATA raised its concerns to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in response to Chairman Issa’s request for them to identify regulations that allegedly prevent job creation. I do not agree that aviation safety regulations have any appreciable impact on employment levels, nor should public safety be compromised in the name of corporate profits. As someone who cares deeply about aviation safety, as well as the strength of the air travel industry, I urge you to work collaboratively with the various stakeholders on this issue to implement robust rules that maximize passenger safety. To do so will increase the safety of our skies while strengthening the economic health of the air travel industry by increasing the confidence of the flying public.

The facts surrounding the tragic crash of flight 3407 led to a deep examination of many elements of air travel safety ranging from the proper notification of the precise airline a commuter will use when buying a ticket, to the way the air travel industry trains and utilizes pilots and co-pilots, and, frankly, that system was found lacking. The regulations that the ATA is seeking to weaken are the result of a careful examination of flaws in air travel safety and are an effort to strengthen the overall system, which will benefit both the flying public and the industry, because the use of that system is directly linked to the highest possible degree of safety.

I strongly believe that FAA must not waver in undertaking its rulemaking. Instead, we must forge ahead with robust rules that will truly advance our shared goal of improving aviation safety. Thank you for your attention to the important matter. If you have any questions or need additional information please contact my Washington, DC office at 202-224-6542.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

February 13, 2011

Nicholas E. Calio

President and CEO

Air Transport Association

1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Suite 1100

Washington, DC 20004

Dear Mr. Calio:

As someone who has worked assiduously with travel industry experts and families of those who lost their lives in an avoidable air travel tragedy, I was concerned to learn that the Air Transport Association (ATA) is seeking to weaken the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) proposed fatigue and crewmember training rules for airlines. In a letter to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the ATA expressed concern regarding the potential “financial and business impact” of these rules.

As someone who cares deeply about the strength of the air travel industry, I believe strongly that this is a mistake and respectfully urge the ATA not to pursue this effort. Instead, I urge you to work collaboratively with the various stakeholders on this issue to implement rules that maximize passenger safety. To do so will strengthen the economic health of the air travel industry by increasing the confidence of the flying public. Conversely, undermining that confidence sends a terrible message to the flying public that jeopardizes industry support.

Two years ago this week, Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed near Buffalo, New York and claimed fifty lives. Pilot error was cited as a leading factor in that accident, and we know that the copilot complained of fatigue during the flight, which may have affected her performance. From this accident, we learned that more needs to be done to ensure pilots and copilots are properly trained and fully rested before taking to the skies. In the wake of this tragedy, the families of those who lost their lives in the crash came together to work on legislation and regulations to overhaul FAA safety standards, including pilot training and fatigue rules. These courageous families fought to improve FAA safety standards to make the skies safer for us all.

Your organization recently wrote about pilot fatigue and crewmember training rules to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in response to their request for regulations that allegedly prevent job creation. I am also eager to see more jobs created in industries such as yours, and, in fact, have a long record of promoting increased air travel in every corner of my state, but I do not agree that aviation safety regulations have any appreciable impact on employment levels. The safer people feel, the more likely they will be to fly and vice-versa.

The facts surrounding the tragic crash of flight 3407 led to a deep examination of many elements of air travel safety ranging from the proper notification of the precise airline a commuter will use when buying a ticket, to the way the air travel industry trains and utilizes pilots and co-pilots, and, frankly, that system was found lacking. The regulations you seek to weaken are the result of a careful examination of flaws in air travel safety and are an effort to strengthen the overall system, which will benefit both the flying public and the industry, because the use of that system is directly linked to the highest possible degree of safety. Again, I strongly urge you not to oppose these necessary and proper safety rules. We simply cannot afford to ignore the tragic lessons that were learned from Flight 3407’s crash and other tragedies.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact my Washington, DC office at 202-224-6542.

Sincerely,

Charles E. Schumer

February 13, 2011

Share

Comments on this entry are closed.