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Slaughter, Higgins, Hochul and Reed Ask FAA to Implement Findings of Damaging New Report

On Heels of GAO Report Release, Members Ask for Swift Rulemaking
November 15, 2011

Western New York Members of Congress, Reps. Louise Slaughter (NY-28), Brian Higgins (NY-27), Kathy Hochul (NY-26) and Tom Reed (NY-29) today wrote to FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt asking him to implement the recommendations found in a government study citing problems with the FAA’s oversight of pilot training. The Members also called on Administrator Babbitt to move forward with a pilot training rulemaking process in order to adequately prepare first officers for flying regional aircraft.

In a report released today titled “Initial Pilot Training; Better Management Controls are Needed to Improve FAA Oversight,” the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the FAA may not have conducted mandatory inspections of pilot schools and pilot examiners as a result of poor management. Pilot school requirements have not been updated in almost 15 years and training standards are not currently in place to adequately train first officers to fly regional aircrafts like the Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 that tragically crashed in Clarence Center, NY killing 50.

Today the lawmakers write,

“Of particular concern is the GAO’s finding that the FAA may not have completed required annual inspections at 118 of the nation’s 545 (21.6 percent) pilot schools. The GAO could not determine whether the FAA was missing data due to poor management of their information database or if the inspections never occurred in the first place. In addition, the GAO could not verify the FAA had performed mandatory annual inspections of pilot examiners, which are used to supplement the FAA’s workforce by testing pilot applicants. Some pilot examiners with the highest rates of activity that require two annual inspections had not received an inspection in the previous 12 months.”

A copy of the letter to Administrator Babbitt is included below.

“These are startling new revelations from the GAO,” said Slaughter, “and it’s as clear as it has ever been that the FAA needs to act as quickly as possible to implement safety regulations that address pilot safety to the level the flying public expects.’

“Much of this comes back to the question Flight 3407 families have asked and the public certainly deserves to have answered: Who is really flying your plane?” said Congressman Higgins. “Passengers have a right to know which airline in operating the plane, what kind of education and training the pilots have and how well rested and prepared those in the cockpit are to handle any situation that arises. That’s why we called for this report and that’s why we will continue to fight until all families can be assured that those flying their plane are expertly trained, alert and qualified. ”

“These recommendations must be swiftly implemented in order to ensure the safety of our flying public,” said Congresswoman Hochul. “While today’s recommendations will strengthen the oversight of pilot certification, we must still move forward with implementing the law that enhances pilot training. This law was passed over a year ago and the people in my district, who experienced the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407, demand to know their calls for airline safety reforms do not go unheeded.”

The study was requested in September 2009 in response to the crash of Continental Connection flight 3407 which crashed in Clarence Center, NY. A copy of their letter requesting the study is also attached.