July 28, 2010

Gillibrand Praises Inclusion Of Flight 3407 Safety Provisions In FAA Extension -- Expected To Pass This Week

Recognizes the Tireless Advocacy of the Flight 3407 Families

Washington, DC – U.S Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today praised inclusion of a Flight 3407 safety provision in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Extension legislation expected to pass Congress this week. The extension includes Senator Gillibrand’s measure requiring the FAA to report back to Congress on all new safety recommendations issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigative reports.  Senator Gillibrand’s other priorities, including requirements to increase training hours for commercial pilots, was also included in the FAA extension.

“The voices of the families of Flight 3407 were heard loud and clear and we will save lives because of their advocacy,” Senator Gillibrand said. “This is a major step forward in our efforts to strengthen the safety of all airline passengers. Time and time again, the FAA has ignored safety recommendations and put innocent lives at risk. My provision will change the culture of inaction and make air travel safer for all of us. Without the steadfast dedication of the Families of Flight 3407, we would not be making any of these safety improvements. They are to be commended for their incredible work.” 

Senator Gillibrand’s proposal will bring accountability to the FAA by strengthening current reporting requirements to ensure that NTSB safety recommendations – like the 25 new and 3 previous recommendations included in the NTSB’s February 12, 2010 final report from the Flight 3407 incident – are reviewed and responded to, not simply acknowledged that they have been received with little more than a yes, no or maybe response.

The extension legislation includes the following requirements of the FAA:

  • The Secretary of Transportation must send an annual report to Congress and the NTSB detailing:
    • All recommendations that the Secretary has enacted or intends to enact
    • Details on the procedures for adoption of recommendations or parts of recommendations
    • Reasons for refusing to carry out all or part of recommendations
  • The Secretary must include details on plans to enact recommendations that include:
    • A description of the recommendation
    • A description on the procedures to enact all or part of a recommendation
    • A timeline on enacting all or part of a recommendation
    • If the timeline is not met, detailed explanation as to why all or part of a recommendation has not been enacted on the dates the Secretary lays out
  • For recommendations or parts of recommendations the Secretary refuses to enact the Secretary must:
    • A description of the recommendation
    • Detailed reasons the Secretary refuses to carry out all or part of a recommendations

In May 2009, after meeting with the families of the Flight 3407 crash near Buffalo, Senator Gillibrand asked that the NTSB ensure that needed changes in the airline system are not ignored. During the NTSB investigative hearings, families heard of the system-wide failures – from training to crewmember fatigue – that led to the Flight 3407 crash. Senator Gillibrand wants to ensure that needed reforms and changes in the system are implemented by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The extension legislation also includes a proposal that Senator Gillibrand worked to advance that will raise the minimum requirements for the hiring of commercial pilots.  This proposal, endorsed by the Families of Flight 3407, raises the minimum standard for new pilots from 250 hours to 1,500 hours.  In addition to more flight time experience, the new regulations would increase the quality of that training, not just the quantity.  These new regulations require that pilots must demonstrate effective operation of aircraft in:

  • Multipilot conditions
  • Adverse weather conditions, including icing conditions, as was the case with Flight 3407
  • High altitude operations
  • Basic standards of cockpit professionalism and operations in part of the airline industry

In June 2009, Senator Gillibrand submitted questions from the family members of victims in the Flight 3407 crash near Buffalo about fundamental failures in our aviation system at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Aviation Safety & FAA Oversight. Senator Gillibrand wanted to ensure that their questions about a variety of safety issues were answered by Agency leadership. To that end, Senator Gillibrand asked family members to submit questions to her office, and in turn, Subcommittee Chairman Byron Dorgan agreed to submit them for the record, and were answered in writing.