May 15, 2009

Gillibrand to NTSB: Don't Make Flight 3407 Pilots a Scapegoat

Senator Gillibrand Cites System Wide Failure That Must Be Addressed

Washington, DC – After meeting with the families of the Flight 3407 crash in Buffalo, New York, U.S. Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand today asked that the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ensure that needed changes in the airline system are not ignored.
 
“While it appears that the pilots of this aircraft committed grave errors, their conduct seems to be an indictment of the aviation system as a whole,” Gillibrand said in the letter. “These pilots are the product of an aviation system where training, salaries, and oversight are severely flawed.”
 
During the NTSB investigative hearings this week, families heard of the system wide failures – from training to compensation – 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 full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter is below:
 
Honorable Mark V. Rosenker, Acting Chairman
National Transportation Safety Board
490 L'Enfant Plaza, SW 
Washington, DC 20594 
 
Dear Chairman Rosenker,
 
Over the course of the last week, we have heard shocking testimony about the grave errors that were made by the pilots of Continental Flight 3407.  I am outraged to learn that the horrible crash could have been prevented had mistakes not been made.
 
As you thoroughly examine the evidence from this hearing and issue recommendations, I ask that you responsibly assess where the blame should truly lie. On behalf of the families who lost loved ones in this tragedy and all Americans who depend on safe air travel, I urge you not to turn the pilots of Flight 3407 into scapegoats.
 
While it appears that the pilots of this aircraft committed grave errors, their conduct seems to be an indictment of the aviation system as a whole. These pilots are the product of an aviation system where training, salaries, and oversight are severely flawed. We all heard how the co-pilot only made $16,000 a year, which obviously does not even cover the cost of living for a Newark-based crew member. Crew members live so far away and are not given proper accommodations before their flights, leaving them exhausted and ill-equipped to do their job.
 
Furthermore, these pilots did not have enough training for typical winter conditions in the northeast. In addition, the witness from the human resources department could not answer simple questions about requirements and qualifications for pilots. 
 
Failing to hold the system accountable would be a further injustice to these families and all consumers across the country. The Federal Airline Administration must accept some of the responsibility for the tragedy in Buffalo, or these systemic risks and failures will continue.
 
Justice must be served for the men and women who lost their lives in the horrible accident of Flight 3407, and that does not mean resting all the blame on the pilots.
 
These pilots made grave errors but were also a product of an industry that is not adequately training or caring for their workers.
 
Sincerely,
 
Kirsten E. Gillibrand
United States Senator