September 13, 2011

Schumer, Gillibrand Call On The President To Finalize Flight Safety Regulations Passed As Part Of Landmark Legislation In The Wake Of Flight 3407

As The Families Of Flight 3407 Visit Washington To Lobby For Flight Safety Regulations, Schumer and Gillibrand Call On President Obama To Implement Tough Flight Safety Regulations To Improve Aviation Safety

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand called on President Obama and the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to finalize strong pilot fatigue regulations, that are required by a law they helped pass, as quickly as possible. Schumer and Gillibrand’s call comes after the Administration missed the August 1st deadline to implement these regulations.

The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Extension Act of 2010 requires the FAA to issue a final rule on pilot fatigue, but the rule, which is currently under review by OMB, has not been published. In the letter signed by Schumer, Gillibrand, and several other senators, the group argues that finalizing a strong fatigue rule is critical to our aviation safety and will help keep overworked and overtired pilots out of the cockpit. In addition to the overdue fatigue regulations, rules on flight crewmember mentoring, as well as stall-and-upset recovery, stick pusher and weather event training are also behind schedule.  According to the senators, by implementing these rules as quickly as possible, we can make sure that our planes are filled with qualified and alert air crews.

“The President took the right first step in signing this landmark reform bill to make our skies safer, but we’re not home yet,” said Schumer. “The President should direct OMB to finalize their review of these regulations as quickly as possible, so that we can have tough standards in place to help prevent another Flight 3407 tragedy. In his speech to the nation last week, the President said our regulations should improve public safety – and these rules to protect the lives of passengers and crews do exactly that. I will keep working alongside the brave and relentless 3407 families until these rules are put into effect.”

“We must ensure that these safety improvements happen now – we cannot afford to wait any longer,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Over the past two years, the families of the victims of Flight 3407 have been a constant presence here in Washington, D.C., working to improve safety conditions so that others are spared the same loss they have had to endure. It is because of the tireless efforts of these families - their unwavering pursuit for justice - that we have taken some of the most significant steps in improving the safety of the nation’s aviation system in years. Now it is critical that the Administration finalize strong pilot fatigue rules. I will continue to stand with the Families of Flight 3407 to make sure that the lessons learned from those lost on that tragic flight, are not forgotten in the Halls of Congress.”

Schumer and Gillibrand have worked with the families of the victims in the Continental Flight 3407 crash to significantly improve air travel safety in the wake of a crash investigation which determined that shockingly limited flying experience is required to be a co-pilot for a regional carrier. From the earliest days after the crash, Schumer, Gillibrand and the families of the victims worked on legislation to close the gaps in airline safety that allowed this tragedy to occur and create one level of safety for all segments of the industry. Their efforts culminated in the passage of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Extension Act last summer, which mandates new safety standards including increased training for pilots and stricter flight and duty time regulations to combat pilot fatigue. This law also requires that online vendors of airline tickets disclose, at first viewing, if the flight is operated by a regional carrier instead of a major carrier.

The text of the letter, signed by Senators Schumer, Gillibrand, Casey, Klobuchar, Lautenberg, Lieberman, Leahy, Menendez, Merkley, and Wyden appears below:

Dear Mr. President,

We write to you regarding PL 111-216, the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, landmark flight safety legislation that you most appropriately signed into law last August. We would like to thank you for your support of this bill and  request your assistance in compelling the Office of Management and Budget to work quickly to finalize strong pilot flight and duty time rulemakings.

 As you are may recall, the February 2009 crash of Continental Air Flight 3407 near Buffalo, New York, claimed fifty lives and alerted the nation to shortfalls in our aviation safety system, particularly at the regional airline level. In the wake of the crash, the families of those who lost their lives on that day came together and pushed for an overhaul of our nation’s aviation safety laws in order to prevent a tragedy like the crash of Flight 3407 from happening again. With the help of the families, we passed the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act and you signed that bill into law one year ago.

Passage of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act was truly a momentous achievement and we appreciate your support of this legislation as well as the work your administration has already undertaken to implement aspects of the law.  However, an important provision requiring that a new pilot flight and duty time rulemaking be finalized by August 1, 2011 is currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and has not been finalized. The pilot fatigue rulemakings are of paramount importance because the National Transportation Safety Board identified fatigue as a contributing factor to the tragic crash in Buffalo, NY and it has been listed on the National Transportation Safety Board’s Most Wanted list for years. Finalizing a strong fatigue rule is critical to our aviation safety and will help keep overworked and overtired pilots out of the cockpit. In passing the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act, Congress intended that safety provisions, including new fatigue rules, be enacted in a way that truly enhances aviation safety and we expect nothing less of the final rules. We would urge you to direct the OMB to expeditiously complete their review and finalize a strong flight and duty time rule.

Thank you for your attention to this important request. We know you share our concern for aviation safety and we look forward to working your office, OMB, and the Department of Transportation in finalizing this important rulemaking.