October 13, 2016

Senators Gillibrand And Feinstein Lead Effort Urging The Federal Aviation Administration To Reject Proposals That Would Weaken Airline Passenger Safety

Senators: Extremely alarming that FAA would consider weakening requirements to protect passenger safety Industry proposal would reduce the amount of flight training hours required to become commercial co-pilot

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) today led a letter with five other senators urging the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to reject proposals that would weaken airline passenger safety. It has recently been reported that the FAA is considering a proposal by the airline industry that would reduce the amount of flight hours required for commercial first officer training to as low as 500 hours for individuals with military experience in an effort to increase pilot employment rates.

“On February 12, 2009, Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed into a house in Clarence Center, New York, killing all 49 passengers and crew on board, and one person on the ground,” the Senators wrote in the letter. “Investigations surrounding the crash concluded that it occurred as a result of pilot error, and alerted the entire nation to the shortfalls of our country’s aviation system. First officers, also known as co-pilots, were only required to have a commercial pilot certificate and 250 hours of flight training. The tragedy of Flight 3407 could have been prevented, and following that crash Congress mandated new training hour requirements that would ensure that the families of those killed in the crash, along with all Americans, have the strongest possible safety regulations. We are extremely concerned that the FAA could now consider rescinding these same regulations that are essential to passenger safety and preventing future tragedies.”

The new proposal would allow certain pilots with as little as 500 hours of flying experience to become commercial co-pilots. Today, pilots are required to have at least 750 to 1,500 hours of flying experience to become a commercial co-pilot.

The full text of the letter is included below:

October 13, 2016

 

The Honorable Michael P. Huerta
Administrator
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20591

Dear Administrator Huerta,

We write to you today to express our concerns regarding a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) industry working group proposal that would reportedly reduce the amount of flight hours required for commercial first officer training to as low as 500 hours. We find the news that the FAA would consider weakening requirements that exist to protect passenger safety extremely alarming, and write to strongly urge you to consider alternative methods to increasing pilot employment rates in a manner that does not endanger the lives of American citizens.

On February 12, 2009, Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed into a house in Clarence Center, New York, killing all 49 passengers and crew on board, and one person on the ground. Investigations surrounding the crash concluded that it occurred as a result of pilot error, and alerted the entire nation to the shortfalls of our country’s aviation system. First officers, also known as co-pilots, were only required to have a commercial pilot certificate and 250 hours of flight training.

The tragedy of Flight 3407 could have been prevented, and following that crash Congress mandated new training hour requirements that would ensure that the families of those killed in the crash, along with all Americans, have the strongest possible safety regulations.  In 2010, Congress mandated the FAA to adopt a final rule setting the co-pilot training requirement at 1500 hours, which the FAA did not adopt until 2013.  We are extremely concerned that the FAA could now consider rescinding these same regulations that are essential to passenger safety and preventing future tragedies.

The current flight hour requirements help guarantee that our nation’s pilots have the best set of skills and knowledge before they enter the cockpit of a commercial aircraft. The families of the victims of the Colgan Flight 3407 fought to ensure that other families would not have to suffer as they did, and these requirements keep passengers safe.

Again, we strongly urge your agency to develop alternative solutions that do not undermine current training requirements, which would put the safety of the flying public at risk. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Kirsten Gillibrand                                                       Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator                                                 United States Senator

Barbara Boxer                                                             Richard Blumenthal
United States Senator                                                 United States Senator

Cory A. Booker                                                          Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator                                                 United States Senator

Robert Menendez
United States Senator