September 14, 2015

After Repeated Delays of Flight 3407 Reforms, Gillibrand Pushes Feds on Implementation of Safety Regulations

New Audit Report Shows Another Eight-Year Delay for Pilot Records Database. One of Several Regulations Adopted After Colgan Air Flight 3407 Gillibrand Calls Failure to Meet Deadlines "Unacceptable" in letter to Federal Aviation Administrator

Buffalo, NY – With a new audit reporting repeated delays of flight safety regulations adopted in the wake of Colgan Air Flight 3407, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today pushed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to make the reforms a priority. An audit by the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General revealed that the FAA had missed several deadlines mandated by the 2010 Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act – including the development of the pilot records database, which would ensure airlines have access to pilots' safety records. 

“I worked with my colleagues in Congress, as well as the families of those who tragically lost their lives as a result of the 2009 crash of Colgan Air flight 3407, to enact a number of new aviation safety rules as part of the Airline Safety and Extension Act of 2010,” said Senator Gillibrand in letter to Michael Huerta, Administrator of the FAA. “The timelines for developing the new rules mandated as part of the legislation were included to ensure that the FAA moved as quickly as possible to fix the egregious lapses in safety that were exposed by that tragedy. However, I am deeply troubled by the fact that these deadlines have routinely been missed, and further delay jeopardizes the safety of the flying public.”

The letter goes on to explain that the pilot record database would close a safety gap uncovered in the investigation of the flight 3407 crash when the National Transportation Safety Board found: “that the captain of the flight failed to disclose failed proficiency checks that occurred prior to his employment with the airline.” The pilot records database would provide airlines and regulators alike with the information needed to make hiring decisions and confirm that a pilot is qualified to fly. 

Gillibrand has worked with the families of the victims of the 2009 Continental Flight 3407 crash to improve air travel safety in the wake of a crash investigation which determined that limited flying experience is required to be a co-pilot for a regional carrier. Their efforts culminated in the passage of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act in the summer of 2010, 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.

Senator Gillibrand’s letter is available here and copied below. 

Dear Administrator Huerta,

 

                I am writing out of concern about the slow pace of implementation of the creation of a pilot records database (PRD), as required by the 2010 Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act. 

 

                I was dismayed to read the Audit Report issued by the Department of Transportation’s Office of the Inspector General (IG) on August 20, 2015, in which the IG found that your agency’s “progress in developing and implementing the PRD remains limited, and its completion remains uncertain.”  Additionally, the Audit Report stated that the FAA does not plan to issue a rulemaking until 2017, with full implementation occurring as late as 2023.  This timeline is unacceptable and further delay jeopardizes the safety of the flying public.

 

                I worked with my colleagues in Congress, as well as the families of those who tragically lost their lives as a result of the 2009 crash of Colgan Air flight 3407, to enact a number of new aviation safety rules as part of the Airline Safety and Extension Act of 2010.  The timelines for developing the new rules that we mandated as part of that legislation were included to ensure that the FAA moved as quickly as possible to fix the egregious lapses in safety that were exposed by that tragedy.  However, I am deeply troubled by the fact that these deadlines have routinely been missed, and that it is expected to take another eight years for the PRD to be fully implemented. 

 

                The PRD is critical to ensuring that air carriers have access to the full safety records of pilots during the hiring process.  As the IG report stated, the National Transportation Safety Board found during its investigation of the flight 3407 crash, “that the captain of the flight failed to disclose failed proficiency checks that occurred prior to his employment with the airline.”  The flying public has the right to know that when they step onto a flight, the airline and regulators know the full extent of that pilot’s safety record in determining that he or she is qualified to fly. 

 

                Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter, and I urge you to work as expeditiously as possible to speed up the timeline to fully implement the creation of the PRD.  I will continue to monitor the progress of this rulemaking very closely, and please do not hesitate to contact Jordan Baugh, in my Washington office, if you wish to discuss this matter further.

 

Sincerely,

 

Kirsten Gillibrand

United States Senator