Washington, D.C. (WKBW-Release)
A House of Representatives amendment, proposed by Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania, could weaken flight safety standards Flight 3407 families and the Western New York delegation have been working to implement.
That vote was taken Friday on the floor of the House after deliberation Thursday for the FAA Re-authorization and Reform Act (H.R. 658).
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer released the following statement after the passage of a House amendment proposed by Rep. Bill Shuster that he says would weaken flight safety standards that Flight 3407 families and Schumer have been working to implement:
“This amendment attempts to undo the hard work of the Flight 3407 families who banded together in their darkest moment to fight for safer air travel. I won’t stand for it, the Flight 3407 families won’t stand for it, and it should not be part of the final FAA bill. I am going to do everything I possibly can to strip this provision from the bill, and look forward to its ultimate defeat.” – U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer
Congressman Brian Higgins commented as well:
Statement By Congressman Higgins on Amendment to FAA Bill
“In a disappointing move, members of the House voted (215-209) to approve an amendment which endangers the great progress we have made in flight safety since the crash of Flight 3407 and jeopardizes the lives of the flying public. This is a tragic assault on the mountain of work it took to advance necessary aviation reforms including measures to reduce pilot fatigue.
“I was proud to stand with Flight 3407 families today, voting against this amendment which stalls aviation safety reforms that save lives. We lost this battle but the fight is not over. We will fight this to the finish.”
“Mr. Speaker, I rise to express my strong opposition to an amendment made in order under this rule, which would block the implementation of regulations to prevent pilot fatigue.
“Our current pilot fatigue regulations are outdated and have been on the books for decades. In that time we have seen many preventable accidents occur due to pilot fatigue, including the crash of Flight 3407 near Buffalo in which 50 people died two years ago.
“In response to that tragedy and after over a year of consideration, last year the House and the Senate unanimously passed legislation to update our pilot fatigue rules. They are pending implementation by FAA. These reforms have been on the National Transportation Safety Board’s most wanted list for the past 20 years. They are based on science and circadian rhythms, and the input of the aviation community.
“However, the Amendment offered by Mr. Shuster would have the effect of blocking their implementation.
“Mr. Speaker, pilots are people. It doesn’t matter whether they are flying a cargo plane, a regional plane, or a large passenger plane -- they need adequate rest to perform their duties. Quite simply these pilot fatigue reforms will save lives.
“Fifty lives were needlessly lost 2 years ago. Last year we voted unanimously to enact these reforms due to the dogged advocacy of the families who lost their loved ones in that crash. These families want nothing more than to make our airways safer, and to prevent this tragedy from happening again.
“I urge my colleagues to stand with these families, to stand with aviation safety, and to please vote against the Shuster Amendment.”
The following is a release from Congresswoman Slaughter's office:
Slaughter Stands Up for 3407 Families
“These safety provisions must stay intact and they must apply to all pilots.”
Slaughter Says Passage of Shuster Amendment is “shameful and poses a threat to everyone stepping onto a plane”
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28) Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee, today condemned the passage of an amendment that would undermine reforms put in place in the wake of Continental Connection flight 3407’s crash in Clarence, NY.
Slaughter spent her time on the House floor this morning lobbying many of her Republican colleagues to reject an amendment offered by Congressman Shuster of Pennsylvania. Despite that effort, the amendment passed by a vote of 215-209. The roll call vote is available here.
“I am ashamed by the actions of the House today which voted to allow this short-sighted amendment to move forward. It is shameful and poses a threat to everyone stepping onto an airplane,” said Slaughter. “This is an insult to the family members of Flight 3407 who have worked so unselfishly to protect the flying public. Our effort to defeat this series of loopholes is not over and I will certainly be working with the family members to fight any and all attempts to weaken the important safety provisions we fought so hard to create.”
Slaughter railed against the amendment yesterday on the House floor and also on Wednesday in the Rules Committee when she proposed to strike the Shuster amendment. That effort was defeated after a partisan vote in the Rules Committee.
WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Ranking Member on the House Rules Committee, today spoke on the House floor urging her colleagues to vote against an amendment that would undercut reforms put in place in the wake of Continental Connection flight 3407’s crash in Clarence, NY.
In her comments, Slaughter paid tribute to the hard work of the 3407 families who have long championed strong pilot safety regulations.
Said Slaughter, “I can think of no better way to mark the lessons we have learned as a nation about flight safety than by honoring the people who died on that cold and snowy night. This has been the mission of their families and it has become a mission of mine.”
Slaughter’s Remarks on the House Floor
M. Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition to the Shuster Amendment that would undermine the strong flight safety regulations passed by this Congress meant to protect air travelers throughout this nation.
Last July, Congress came together to pass the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010. It was landmark legislation requiring the FAA to implement the findings of the National Transportation Safety Board, which many of us thought the FAA already did, establish a pilot records database to provide airlines with fast, electronic access to a pilot’s record, direct all airlines and websites that sell airline tickets to disclose who is operating each flight and of vital importance to those of us who live in Western New York, make necessary changes that address the under reported and deadly issue of pilot fatigue and inability to fly in bad conditions.
My concern, M. Speaker is that this amendment stands to undermine all of these reforms. It would lay additional layers to the FAA’s already cumbersome rule making process only delaying what we fought so hard to create last year. And we must not go back.
M. Speaker, I have the privilege of representing Western New York and flight safety is one of our highest priorities.
It was outside Buffalo, in the suburb of Clarence, NY on a snowy February evening that Continental Connection Flight 3407, operated by regional carrier Colgan Air crashed to the ground killing all 49 passengers and one man on the ground. It was a tragedy deeply felt in Western New York and sent shock waves throughout the aviation community.
As we discovered more details about that fateful evening, we learned that the young pilot had never been trained on stall recovery techniques, which were needed that snowy night, and had failed five different tests but his employer only knew about two of those failures.
One pilot had slept in the airport in a chair and the other had taken a red-eye flight from Seattle just the night before.
It exposed delinquencies in commercial aviation that desperately needed solutions: Pilots are often exhausted and are underpaid. Discrepancies in training requirements exist between major carriers and their regional partners. And pilot records are inconsistent meaning a pilot’s entire flying record wasn’t available to their employer.
In the two years that followed, we took tremendous effort to learn from the lessons of that painful night. Lead by family heroic members of the victims of Flight 3407, Congress passed the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act.
I’d like to take a moment to recognize the courage and tenacity of those family members. In the past two years, they have worked through the grief of their own loss and advocated for safer skies for the rest of us. Collectively they’ve made 40 trips to Washington, on their own money, constantly reminding members of the House, Senate and Administration that improving aviation safety is never a cause that can be pushed aside. They have become the most effective group of citizens I’ve seen in my time in government. Every one of us, and we all do almost every week, who step into an airplane owes them tremendously and I’m pleased to call them my friends.
The nation cannot thank them individually, but this Congress can honor them by voting no on the Shuster amendment.
Because of their work, and those in Congress, I can think of no better way to mark the lessons we have learned as a nation about flight safety than by honoring the people who died on that cold and snowy night. This has been the mission of their families and it has become a mission of mine.
Any attempt to turn back the clock on the landmark provisions we passed last July will hurt everyone, including all of the Members of Congress who fly back and forth to our districts each week.
To think that the pilot flying that plane is so fatigued that he or she is not at their peak is astounding and dangerous to all of us. These safety provisions must stay intact and they must apply to all pilots.
It should not take another tragedy for us to have to relearn the lessons of flight safety. I urge my colleagues to vote no on this amendment which should not be in this bill. I yield back the balance of my time.