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Higgins, Slaughter & Hochul Mark National Aviation Day with Push for Swift Action to Address Pilot Fatigue

8/19/2011- Western New York Congressmembers Brian Higgins (NY-27), Louise Slaughter (NY-28) and Kathy Hochul (NY-26) sent a letter to the Office of Management and Budget asking the agency to expedite their timeline for rulemaking associated with pilot fatigue.

The Department of Transportation is currently projecting new flight time and duty time rules, originally scheduled for release August 1, will not be published until November 22, 2011. The Members stress that reducing pilot fatigue has been listed as a priority by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for 20 years and the urgent need for changes are increasingly evident following the February 2009 crash of Flight 3407 in Western New York.

“For two decades the federal government has listed pilot fatigue as a problem, and dozens of families, including those linked to Flight 3407, have paid a monumental price for our Nation’s failure to address this issue in a timely manner,” said Congressman Higgins. “The American flying public deserves better. They deserve expeditious actions and serious attention to ensure the person sitting in the cockpit when they board that plane is adequately trained, prepared and rested.”

“I’m outraged that we’re encountering yet another delay,” said Slaughter. “We know what needs to be done – there must be a database of pilot records, we must do more to fight pilot fatigue and we must improve pilot training. These reforms are too important for any further delay. Here in Western New York we know the cost of turning a blind eye to flight safety. Reducing pilot fatigue is a priority for the flying public and needs to be a priority.”

“The families of the victims of Continental Flight 3407 have already waited over two and a half years to see their hard work passed into law and every day more we make them wait is not only an insult to those who perished on that February night, but also to every passenger who steps on a plane each and every day,” said Congresswoman Hochul. “This is my second inquiry in as many weeks to see what has delayed the implementation of the landmark legislation that will protect our passengers, yet I have received no response. I, and the people I represent, specifically the Flight 3407 families, demand to know when will the traveling public fly safer skies?”

Below is the text of the letter signed by Reps. Higgins, Slaughter and Hochul:

August 19, 2011

The Honorable Jacob J. Lew
Director
Office of Management and Budget
725 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20503

Dear Director Lew:

We write to express our concern and disappointment that the flight and duty time regulation deadline required by PL 111-216, the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Extension Act was missed, and that the projected date listed in the DOT Significant Rulemakings Quarterly Report is not until November 22. We respectfully request the reason for this delay and urge you to expeditiously move forward with strong science-based flight and duty time regulations to combat pilot fatigue.

Reducing pilot fatigue has been on the National Transportation Safety Board’s Most Wanted List for over 20 years. During this time, pilot fatigue has played a serious role in a number of airline crashes, including the February 2009 crash of Continental Flight 3407 in Western New York – the area which we represent in the House of Representatives. In the case of Flight 3407, neither the flight captain nor the copilot had a full night of bed rest the night before the crash; with the flight captain sleeping in the airport crew lounge and the co-captain taking an overnight cross-country flight.

We know from these needless tragedies that the decades old system in place does not adequately address the risk of fatigue nor sufficiently protect the traveling public. We urge you to quickly finalize the pilot and duty time regulations and resist any efforts to weaken strong science-based regulations that end dangerous pilot scheduling practices and ensure that pilots are well-rested and ready to perform their duties. With each delay, the flying public continues to take to the skies bearing unnecessary risks.

Thank you for your attention to this important request. We appreciate your commitment to improving air safety and look forward to working with you to ensure one level of safety.

Sincerely,

Rep. Brian Higgins
Rep. Louise Slaughter
Rep. Kathy Hochul

August 19th was first recognized as National Aviation Day by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939. The observation coincides with the birthday of flying pioneer Orville Wright.