May 03, 2011

Schumer, Gillibrand, Slaughter, Higgins: Amendment to FAA Bill Threatens to Undermine New Flight Safety Rules - Members Stand With Flight 3407 Families to Oppose Attempt to Weaken Flight Safety Regulations as FAA Bill Moves Towards Final Phase

Schumer, Gillibrand, Higgins, Slaughter: Any Attempts To Stall Air Safety Rules Should Never Get Off The Ground

Today, U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Congressman Brian Higgins stood with the families of the victims of Continental Flight 3407 as they continue their efforts to beat back attempts to slow down new aviation safety rules in the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. The bill has been passed by both chambers of Congress, but the House version of the bill contains an amendment that would make it more difficult for the FAA to implement strict safety standards across the industry. Schumer, Gillibrand, Slaughter and Higgins strongly oppose the amendment, and are calling on the conference committee to reject the amendment, which was not included in the Senate version of the bill and only passed the House by a slim margin.

“The FAA bill may be nearing the finish line, but our fight for safer skies is not yet over,” said Senator Schumer. “As we head down the stretch, we are here to deliver a clear message with one voice to anyone who opposes tough flight safety standards – do not stand in the way of making our skies safer. We oppose this amendment, and strongly urge the conference committee to strip it from the final bill so that we can implement tough pilot safety fatigue rules and other guidelines that will make our skies safer. Now is the time to move forward with tough safety rules, not backward.”

“Because of the advocacy and dedication of the Flight 3407 families, we finally passed new rules for air safety,” Senator Gillibrand said. “However, a measure included in the FAA Reauthorization Bill would undermine the work we have done to improve air safety in our country.  I urge my colleagues to reject efforts to undermine the implementation of critical safety regulations. 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.”

“In the two years that followed the tragic crash of Flight 3407, Congress came together, joined by the heroic families of the victims, to make the skies safer for us all. When we passed the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act we thought the legislative battle was over,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28). “Sadly, the Shuster amendment was pushed through the House last month despite the wishes of Flight 3407 family members and even hero pilot Captain Chesley Sullenberger. It was an insult to the family members and left me ashamed of the actions of the House. Any attempt to turn back the clock on the landmark provisions Congress passed last July will harm all air travelers by adding additional layers to the FAA’s already cumbersome rulemaking process. Further delay is not an option and I will continue to fight this provision and preserve the progress we made last year.”

“Just as we are about to reach the finish line in what has been a two year legislative marathon for Flight 3407 families, another hurdle threatens to unravel the great strides bringing us so close to the goal of safer skies for the flying public,” said Congressman Higgins. “Nevertheless, we remain vigilant and united in our fight and determined to see this through until we deliver aviation safety improvements to all American families.”

Schumer, Gillibrand, Slaughter, and Higgins have all 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, the Senators, Representatives, and the families 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 operation by a regional carrier instead of a major carrier.

The amendment, authored by Congressman Bill Shuster (R-PA), could make it more difficult for the Federal Aviation Administration to implement tough pilot fatigue and other safety standards across the entire aviation industry. It would place additional burdens on the FAA as they draft regulations to improve flight safety by putting in place procedural hoops that add unnecessary complexity to the process of creating regulations. The amendment was attached to the House version of the FAA reauthorization bill by a narrow vote of just 215-209. The bill is now heading to a conference committee, before it heads to the President for his final signature. Schumer, Gillibrand, Slaughter and Higgins joined together today to call on the conference committee to strip the amendment from the final bill before it reaches the President’s desk.