The families of Flight 3407 are calling on Congress to reauthorize the flight safety standards passed in 2010. The “One Level of Safety” standards were put into effect a year after Continental Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence Center killing a total of 50 people.
With the FAA authorization set to expire Sept. 30, Congress must act fast to avert a shutdown of agency operations.
Susan Bourque spoke on behalf of the families this afternoon at Buffalo Niagara International Airport. They had a message for Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and acting FAA administrator Daniel Elwell.
“We’re counting on you on behalf of every American,” said Bourque, “who boards the flight operated by a regional carrier. As our sister Beverly did. As the loved ones as all of these people behind me did. To stand up, for one level of safety, and ensure that these new standards which are obviously working are not watered down in any way.”
The last long-term bill passed was the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
“We want to make sure that everyone, in Washington and across the country, knows that we cannot slip one bit when it comes to making sure there is one level of safety between our nations regional and main line carriers,” Bourque said.
Before Continental Flight 3407 crashed, pilots with fewer than 250 hours of flight time were allowed to fly commercial airliners. Now, pilots obtain an Airline Transport Pilot certificate through 1,500 hours of flight time training.
Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) is hopeful it will pass, but said these safety standards are always threatened by the industry.
“There’s a lobby on the other side that’s representing the regional carriers that don’t want the added expense of having to train pilots to the level that they ought to be trained at,” said Higgins. “This is all about the safety of the flying public. These people have lost someone very close to them. They want to insure that another family doesn’t have to go through that and that’s what this is all about.”
Higgins is joined by Rep. Tom Reed (R-Olean) and Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Kirstin Gillibrand (D-New York) as some of the other New York politicians advocating for another extension of the FAA.
“I’m confident, cautiously so, but we have to remain vigilant. It’s never done until it’s done,” Higgins said. “Things can change very quickly and in the eleventh hour. I suspect the house will take up this bill on Wednesday. It will be sent to the Senate, and my hope is the Senate will act before the deadline toward the expiration of the 5-year authorization.”
Karen Eckert, who is Bourque‘s sister, was one of several family members present with statistics to back their points.
“Since the Airline Safety Act of 2010 and actually since our crash, there hasn’t been one fatality on a U.S. airline crash in the United States. That’s a remarkable achievement. It’s the safest period in U.S. commercial airline, in the history of the United States - and that’s what we work so hard to protect.”