Senate Passes Aviation Safety Bill

July 30, 2010 Updated Jul 30, 2010 at 5:31 PM EDT

By WKBW Programming

...
July 30, 2010 Updated Jul 30, 2010 at 5:31 PM EDT

WASHINGTON, DC (WKBW) - The U.S. Senate unanamously passed the new Aviation Safety Bill Friday morning, long sought after by the family members of the victims of the crash of Flight 3407 after the accident in Clarence Center, NY in February 2009.

The bill was approved late Thursday night by the U.S. House of Representatives, and will no go to President Obama for his signature.

Once a law, stricter rules for air travel would include airline co-pilots having to have a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time, just like captains. The current rule is only 250 hours.

President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law sometime Friday.

White House spokeswoman Moria Mack released the following statement:

"The President commends the House and the Senate for passing critical aviation safety measures as part of the FAA reauthorization extension. The families of Continental Flight 3407 have never stopped pushing for these safety improvements to honor their loved ones who died in February, 2009.

In May, the President told the family members that he would take sensible steps to pursue important safety reforms and he is pleased Congress has acted to ensure that we will use the best available evidence to make our aviation system as safe as possible for the traveling public."

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's office sent this release to Eyewitness News:

“I rise today to speak on the extension of the Federal Aviation Administration authorization, which includes a number of critical policy reforms that will make our skies safer for millions of Americans and their families.

“On the evening of February 12, 2009, Continental Flight 3407, operated by Colgan Air, departed from Newark International Airport for Buffalo, New York. The forty-five passengers and five crewmembers were just miles from the Buffalo airport when a series of events resulted in the death of all aboard as well as a father on the ground whose home was the unfortunate final resting place of Flight 3407.

“Mr. President, over this last year and a half, I have gotten to know many of the families of the victims. They are a constant presence here in Washington, DC, working to improve safety conditions so that others are spared the same loss they have had to endure.

“Sitting in my office last spring, as the NTSB began to release information on the crash, I discussed with the families the tremendous value of their advocacy. For decades the system has been slow to change and in the mean time innocent lives have been lost. We discussed the possibility of seizing on this very legislation as a vehicle for change -- to bring accountability and transparency to the system -- to strengthen the training requirements and push forward to achieving -- not just “one level of safety” -- but a “higher level of safety”.

“As I speak to you today many of those family members are with us here in Washington. It is because of their tireless efforts - their unwavering pursuit for justice - that we are in a position today to take some of the most significant steps in improving the safety of the nation’s aviation system in years.

“Mr. President, the measures we are considering in this extension are the result of bipartisan efforts in both the Senate and the House – yielding a number of provisions that I have worked to advance - and that aim to bring increased oversight and accountability to the system – that force the FAA to respond to the growing concerns over crewmember fatigue and commuting - that strengthen the training requirements for our commercial pilots to ensure that those who are trusted with the lives of so many have the critical experience needed to safely operate an aircraft and respond accordingly in the event of an emergency.

“Mr. President, I want to recognize my colleagues, Chairman Dorgan and Chairman Rockefeller, who have been working around the clock on trying to bring the FAA Reauthorization bill to the floor. We still have work to do, and I look forward to joining them after the Summer Work Period to see the larger legislative package, which is long overdue, sent to President’s desk.

“It is my sincere hope, that these good people who have suffered such sorrow at the loss of mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, sons and daughters, husbands, wives – that they can return home, their heads held high, knowing that they turned their loss into action, and that their efforts might spare others the same pain that they themselves have endured.

“I thank the families for their strength. I thank them for their steadfast advocacy. The American people owe them a debt of gratitude for the work they have done over these many, many months.

CHAIRMAN ROCKEFELLER'S STATEMENT ON SENATE PASSAGE OF THE AIRLINE SAFETY AND FAA EXTENSION ACT OF 2010

"Improving airline safety for American travelers has always been one of
my top priorities. The families of the victims of Flight 3407 have my
full support in demanding one level of safety among all air
carriers-large and small. The extension I've negotiated takes a big
step forward in improving the safety of our skies-it will boost pilot
training programs, combat pilot fatigue, and dramatically increase
requirements for pilots of passenger airlines to have more flying
experience by mandating a minimum of 1,500 hours-up from 250 hours
currently-before they can fly commercial aircraft.

"I am disappointed that a few parochial concerns have stalled progress
on a significant FAA package that will support thousands of jobs,
strengthen airline safety, modernize America's outdated air traffic
control system with satellite-based navigation-which is sorely
needed-and which will fundamentally transform aviation safety.

"Rest assured, I will keep fighting and push for passage of this
comprehensive and important bill that will lead to a better aviation
system for all Americans."

The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of
2010:

* Requires the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT)
to report annually on the status of the agency's adoption of National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommendations, including an
explanation for any deadline that has not been met.

* Requires the FAA to create a comprehensive pilot record database
to be maintained by the FAA for air carriers to track and review pilot
work histories.

* Establishes a task force to evaluate and make recommendations on pilot education, professional standards, information sharing between air carriers, and training standards and performance.

* Requires the DOT Inspector General (IG) to conduct a review of
aviation safety inspectors and operational research analysts. The
review includes an assessment of the FAA's oversight of commercial air carriers, the level of aviation inspector and operational research
analyst staffing and experience, and the surveillance responsibilities
of aviation safety inspectors.

* Mandates the creation of an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC)
to develop crewmember mentoring and professional development programs.

* Requires the Administrator of the FAA to conduct a study on
aviation industry best practices with regard to pilot pairing, crew
resource management techniques, and pilot commuting.

* Requires FAA rulemakings to ensure commercial air carriers
provide pilots with: a) stall, upset recognition, and recovery training;
and b) remedial training. This provision also requires the FAA to
convene a multidisciplinary panel to study and report on methods to
improve pilots' familiarity with stick pusher systems, icing conditions,
and microburst and wind shear events.

* Requires the FAA to complete its on-going rulemaking on pilot
and aircraft dispatcher training, and issue a final rule within 14
months. It also requires the Administrator to convene a
multidisciplinary panel to assess and make recommendations on pilot
training, including initial and recurrent testing requirements and
classroom instruction.

* Requires any ticket agent, air carrier, or other person selling
tickets for air transportation to disclose the actual air carrier providing the air transportation.

* Requires the FAA to perform random, onsite inspections of
regional air carriers not less than once each year.

* Requires the Administrator to issue regulations on flight time
and rest requirements based on the latest scientific evidence to address pilot fatigue. The provision also requires the National Academy of Sciences to study the effect of commuting on pilot fatigue, and requires the Administrator to update regulations based on the study's findings if appropriate.

* Requires the Administrator to issue a report to Congress within
180 on the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), the Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program, the Line Operations Safety Audit (LOSA) program, and the Advanced Qualification Program (AQP).

* Requires the FAA to develop and implement a plan to facilitate
the establishment of the ASAP and FOQA programs at all commercial air
carriers.

* Requires the FAA to conduct a rulemaking to mandate all
commercial air carriers implement Safety Management Systems (SMS), and consider including ASAP, FOQA, LOSA, and AQP as part of required SMS.

* Requires the FAA to complete a rulemaking to revise commercial
pilot requirements and mandates all commercial pilots to have a minimum
of 1,500 hours of flight experience (up from 250 hours).

* Directs the FAA Administrator to revise requirements to receive
an Air Transport Pilot (ATP) license within 36 months, including
provisions that would mandate training in a multi-pilot environment,
adverse weather and icing conditions, high altitude operations,
professional standards, and the air carrier operational environment.

Here is a statement from U.S. Senator Charles Schumer:

This morning, the U.S. Senate passed critical safety legislation long sought by the 3407 Families. The legislation has now passed both Houses of Congress and will go on to the President for his signature. Since the tragic crash, Schumer has been working with the families and his colleagues in the House and Senate to pass legislation improving aviation safety, and after a long journey filled with legislative detours, that has now been accomplished. Today, Schumer released the following statement:

“At long last the hard work, dedication, and legislative astuteness of the families has paid off --the House and Senate have now passed critical safety provisions the families fought so hard for. The most effective tool we had whenever a Senator or Congressman would stand in the way was to say ‘meet with the families’, and inevitably, the virtue of the families’ proposals and motives moved them to our position. This is a textbook example of a small group of people who, with only right on their side, were able to overcome large and powerful special interests. We hope and pray it happens more often in Washington. I was happy to play a role, but the families deserve all the credit.”