Flight 3407 Families to Attend Today’s House Hearing Featuring Huerta; Continue FAA Reauthorization Push

Buffalo, New York – March 3rd, 2015

Group Highlights Preserving Enhanced First Officer Qualification Requirements; Accelerating Pilot Records Database Implementation

In conjunction with this morning’s full committee hearing of the House of Representative’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure featuring FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and the topic of the upcoming FAA Reauthorization, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ announced that group members would be in attendance.  The group recently completed an outreach trip to Washington where they met with staffers on both sides of the Hill focusing on the group’s reauthorization priorities.

“For the memory of Elly and all our loved ones, it is important that the issue of regional airline safety not be forgotten during this reauthorization process,” declared John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty-four year old daughter Elly when Flight 3407 crashed less than a mile from their family’s home.  “As we saw with the news of the United Airlines safety memo last week, we must stay constantly vigilant, as complacency is our number one enemy.  The FAA, at the unanimous direction of Congress, has taken a major step in raising the bar in the preparation of regional airline first officers, both qualitatively with the creation of a comprehensive Airline Transport Pilot certification program, and quantitatively, with the requirement of additional hand-flying and other operating experience in the cockpit.  We call on Administrator Huerta, as well as Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio, to resist industry pressure to water down some of these requirements.  As we continue to emphasize ‘One Level of Safety’, a passenger from Scottsbluff, Nebraska deserves the same level of commitment to safety as a passenger flying out of an airport, such as Chicago O’Hare, that may be more likely to be serviced by a mainline carrier.”

In addition to preserving the enhanced first officer qualification requirements, the group also called on Huerta and congressional members to come up with an expedited timeline for the implementation of an electronic pilot records database.  This database, which would assist in the screening and hiring of pilot applicants, was necessitated by the revelation that Colgan Air hired the captain of Flight 3407 without full awareness of some of his previous training deficiencies.  Since FAA and DOT released a projected timeline for the rule making back in May 2013, the target date for a Notice of Proposed Rule Making to be published has slid from January 2015, to April 2015, to October 2015, and now most recently in a February 2015 tracking report, all the way to April 2016.

“Obviously we are extremely concerned with the repeated delays in this process,” stated Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert, a prominent 9/11 widow and activist.  “No other family should ever have to suffer as we did on account of anything but one hundred percent transparency in the pilot screening and hiring process.  We are counting on Administrator Huerta and his agency to get this process back on track, and furthermore, call on congressional leadership in both houses to put some statutory deadlines on this undertaking as well.  This is an entirely common-sense reform that, six years after the crash, needed to be in place much, much sooner.”

Today’s hearing, entitled ‘Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization: Enabling a 21st Century Aviation System’, will be held at 9:30 a.m. in Room 2167 Rayburn House Office Building.




Contact:      Takla Boujaoude                       takla.3407@gmail.com         716-907-2425

Collins, Higgins, Bipartisan House Contingent Support Flight 3407 Families on 6 Year Crash Anniversary

Letter to Shuster, DeFazio Highlights Importance of Regional Airline Safety in FAA Reauthorization

Buffalo, New York – February 13th, 2015

In conjunction with Thursday’s sixth anniversary of the tragic crash of Continental Flight 3407, operated by regional carrier Colgan Air, a bipartisan House contingent led by Western New York Representatives Chris Collins and Brian Higgins showed their support for the group’s regional airline safety efforts with a letter to House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster and Ranking Member Rep. Peter DeFazio.  The letter targets the committee’s efforts in the upcoming months to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, and calls on the committee to continue its support for the implementation of P.L. 111-216, the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, the landmark aviation safety legislation which was unanimously passed by both Houses in the aftermath of the crash.

“Once again, we are eternally grateful to Congressmen Collins and Higgins, along with Congressman Reed and Congresswoman Slaughter, as they continue to lead the charge for ‘One Level of Safety’ on behalf of the Western New York Community that was devastated by this very preventable tragedy,” stated John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty-four year old daughter Elly when Flight 3407 crashed less than a mile from their family’s home.  “While six years may have passed, it is very important that the airlines and their lobbyists, as well as any members who may be entertaining thoughts of introducing provisions that would weaken this law on behalf of the industry, recognize that we are as committed and determined as ever, and we look forward to being visible and active participants as this legislation is drafted in the upcoming weeks and months.”

The letter, which prioritizes the full-scale implementation of a new federal electronic pilot training records database as well as which speaks out against any weakening of new regional airline first officer qualification requirements, drew its support from members in the New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio region.  Reps. Peter King, Chris Gibson, Elise Stefanik, Eliot Engel, Jerrold Nadler, Paul Tonko, and Steve Israel of the New York delegation, Leonard Lance, Chris Smith, Bill Pascrell, and Albio Sires of the New Jersey delegation, Glenn Thompson and Michael Fitzpatrick of the Pennsylvania delegation, and Mike Turner, Steve Stivers, and Bill Johnson of the Ohio delegation all signed on.  Additionally, Rep. Dan Lipinsky of Illinois, an Aviation Subcommittee member, joined on the letter.

“We cannot say ‘Thank You’ enough to these members for standing alongside of us in the memory of our loved ones,” declared Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert, a prominent 9/11 widow and activist.  “Obviously the support reflects the region of the country which was most affected by this needless tragedy, but it is so important that Congress realizes that an incident like this could devastate a community anywhere in the United States, from Nebraska to Wyoming to Colorado.  Unfortunately, just as in the case of Flight 3407, all it takes is one regional carrier pushing the limits in how it chooses to conduct its day-to-day operations.  While there has been significant turnover in Congress during the six years subsequent to the crash, we look forward to conducting outreach and raising awareness of this critical issue on both sides of the Hill in the upcoming weeks and months.”

Contact:      Takla Boujaoude                       takla.3407@gmail.com         716-907-2425

The text of the letter is included below.  Copies of the letter itself, complete with the member’s signatures, are available upon request.


February 12, 2015


The Honorable Bill Shuster


Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

2165 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515


The Honorable Peter DeFazio

Ranking Member

Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

2163 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Shuster and Ranking Member DeFazio:


As your Committee considers reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), we urge you to continue to support the implementation of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 (PL.111-216) and resist pressure to undermine the enacted provisions.

The tragic crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 six years ago in Clarence Center, N.Y. spurred Congress to pass the largest overhaul to aviation safety in over forty years. This law encompassed the priorities that had been identified for years by the National Transportation Safety Board but had long been ignored. From pilot fatigue guidelines to new training methods for pilots, this law has helped achieve One Level of Safety among all airlines and gone a long way in preventing future accidents like that of Flight 3407.

Since passage of this legislation, the FAA has successfully implemented many of its provisions – with the most recent being a final rule requiring safety management systems for all Part 121 carriers. While these rules have been marked by the slow pace of rulemaking, they have been successful in encompassing the views of all stakeholders. One of the final remaining measures on the docket for implementation of this 2010 law is the creation of a Pilot Records Database. This database – which could have revealed Flight 3407 captain’s history of failed test flights – is critical in ensuring that airlines have full access to a pilot’s comprehensive record, including licenses, aircraft ratings, check rides, Notices of Disapproval and other proficiency tests for hiring purposes.

As the FAA continues to fulfill the mission set forth by Congress in 2010, we ask that the Committee – during consideration of an upcoming FAA Reauthorization – remain committed to upholding the spirit and letter of this aviation safety law.

Of particular concern are attempts to erode the pilot qualification standards – which mandate that a first officer hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, typically attained through 1,500 hours of flight time. Claims that changes to this rule are necessary to ameliorate a supposed pilot shortage ignore the meager salaries that first officers earn at regional airlines – the true reason these airlines have difficulty attracting qualified applicants. In addition, we ask that the timeline for the Pilots Records Database be accelerated and subject to clear implementation milestones.

We thank you for your continued cooperation and efforts to ensure safe travel aboard commercial airlines – and we look forward to working with you as the Committee considers the latest FAA Reauthorization.




Flight 3407 Families to Attend House Hearing; Gear Up for FAA Reauthorization Process

Buffalo, New York – November 18, 2014

With Congress preparing to take up a new FAA Reauthorization effort in the next Congress, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ announced their intentions to be involved in the process as they continue their crusade to achieve a true ‘One Level of Safety’ between the nation’s major and regional carriers.  They will kick off their efforts by attending Tuesday’s House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s hearing entitled, ‘FAA Reauthorization: Issues in Modernizing and Operating the Nation’s Airspace’.

“So many wonderful lives, including that of my beautiful daughter Lorin, were needlessly lost on a February night over five years ago, and we remain firmly committed to doing everything possible to hold regional airlines accountable for the same high safety standards that their major partners are adhering to,” declared Scott Maurer of Moore, South Carolina, who lost his thirty year old daughter Lorin in the crash.  “Passengers on our nation’s regional airlines deserve nothing less than the same investment in training and best practice safety management programs as those flying on the mainline carriers; in the case of Flight 3407, our loved ones were betrayed by a code share agreement between Colgan (now re-branded under the Endeavor Air umbrella), and Continental (now conveniently operating under the United name) that did not live up to this principle.

As we head into this reauthorization process, our mission is twofold; first, to preserve the hard-fought safety advances already made as a result of the landmark regional airline safety legislation passed in 2010, and secondly, to further those initiatives in the legislation as well as the recommendations made in the NTSB final report that have not yet been fully implemented, such as the Pilot Records Database.”

Tuesday’s hearing, expected to focus on the nation’s Air Traffic Control system, will include some of the most powerful lobbying forces in the industry, including Airlines for America President and CEO, Nicholas Calio, representing some of the nation’s largest carriers.  It will be held at 10 a.m. in Room 2167 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

“We got a first-hand look at how convoluted the reauthorization process can be back in the spring and summer of 2010,” stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert, a noted 9/11 widow and activist.  “Everyone has their own agenda in terms of what they are trying to promote and what they are trying to block, all in their best interests of course, and we certainly saw some of the heaviest hitters when it comes to influencing the process in full effect.  We certainly cannot match the financial wherewithal of some of these powerful entities, but no one has a cause as pure as ours, and hopefully Senator Thune and Congressman Shuster will do the right thing and make sure that safety is the top priority at every turn as this sweeping legislation is drafted.”

Contact:      Takla Boujaoude     takla.3407@gmail.com   716-907-2425



Flight 3407 Families: One Month from Critical FAA Safety Deadline, Call Out Airlines’ Pressure on White House

Buffalo, New York- July 1, 2013

With a key deadline in the landmark Airline Safety Act of 2010 looming just one month away, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ challenged the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Department of Transportation (DOT), and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to stand up to airline lobbying efforts aimed at watering down a critical entry-level pilot qualifications final rule. “It is coming down to crunch time, and no sooner had DOT sent the paperwork over to OMB than the lobbyists for A4A (Airlines for America) and RAA (Regional Airline Association) were scurrying over there to make sure they were the first to sit down with OMB,” stated Scott Maurer of Moore, South Carolina, who lost his thirty year-old daughter Lorin in the crash.

“We went through this before with the flight and duty time rule, and in that case, the airlines were successful in getting FAA to water down the final rule from the initial proposal. We challenge Administrator Huerta and his colleagues at DOT and OMB to stand up to the airlines and make sure that this final rule accurately reflects Congress’s unanimous mandate that all entry-level regional airline first officers have a significantly stronger foundation prior to being hired, both in the quality of training and the amount of hands-on prior flight experience. The FAA’s proposal as written makes fair allowances for military pilots and those trained at 4-year accredited university aviation programs, and we are completely opposed to FAA lowering the bar any further in the final rule.”

In passing the ‘Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010’, Congress included multiple provisions intended to raise the safety standard for the nation’s regional airlines. Regional airlines now account for over 50 percent of our nation’s commercial flights on a daily basis, and the regionals have been responsible for every fatal crash since 2003. Key provisions of the Safety Act targeted regional airline deficiencies in the experience level of their new first officers, scheduling practices that contributed to pilot fatigue, and inadequacies in the initial and recurrent crewmember training provided by the regionals. Given FAA’s extensive track record of not meeting rulemaking deadlines, Congress included a default clause in the Safety Act that would require all new commercial first officers to have an Airline Transport Pilot license, the same rating required of captains, if FAA did not complete the rulemaking by August 1, 2013.

“We continue to remind everyone that raising the entry-level requirements for first officers was part of a larger plan by Congress to bring the regional airline’s commitment to, and investment in safety, on par with that of the major airlines – the true ‘One Level of Safety’ that my sister and everyone on that plane tragically did not receive,” stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister and prominent 9/11 widow and activist Beverly Eckert.  “The airlines and their lobbyists have aggressively attempted to message this proposal as being unnecessary and the equivalent of pilots towing banners on a beach to gain the prerequisite number of hours.  They conveniently overlook the two prongs of this initiative: combining a more robust pilot training certification program with additional hands-on flying experience that will give young pilots exposure to bad weather and other difficult operating conditions that they do not receive in flight school.  But the airlines’ true motivation lies in their desire to preserve the status quo of regional airlines paying their first officers food stamp-level wages like what the first officer on Flight 3407 received.  Hopefully FAA, DOT, and OMB are able to see right through that and come down on the side of safety and the flying public when they issue their final rule.  As always, we will be watching closely.”

The ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ group was immediately organized after the crash as a support network and an activist group to work on aviation safety reform.  Visit the group’s website or follow them on twitter @3407Families learn more about their efforts.

Contact:      Takla Boujaoude                    takla.3407@gmail.com                     716-907-2425

Senate Passes FAA Reauthorization

Late yesterday, by a vote of 93-0, the Senate (finally) passed the FAA Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act.  The FAA has been authorized by short-term extensions since 2007, it took a lot to get to this point.

Just this year:

WKBW News has a good summary of what the Senate passed.  The next step is to resolve differences with the House version.  Hopefully it won’t take three months, but yesterday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) said, “we have our work cut out for us,” to reconcile (via @AvWeekScho).

For everyone (legislators, staff, interest groups, industry, concerned citizens) who worked toward this for the last four years, thank you!  Although there is satisfaction, I imagine (and have heard) there is also a bit of resentment.  Four years is a long time to be operating in a tentative framework.  For the goverment agencies, it is especially difficult to operate with no long-term directive.  So, may this be the beginning of something better.

From the Last Few Days: Oct 23

This week, I had the opportunity to attend a screening in the GE Aviation Lecture series at the National Air and Space Museum.  Miles O’Brien and Patty Wagstaff were presenting a film they made about ongoing pilot training at the Kenyan Wildlife Service.  It was fascinating on many levels – the pilots, the wildlife, the poaching, the flying and training in rugged circumstances.  It was a packed house, including GE vice president of Washington operations, Sean O’Keefe.  I would have liked to have met Miles O’Brien, but it wasn’t to be that night.  His next project is with Frontline, a special on Continental Connection Flight 3407, including coverage of the subsequent legislative action.

Tough Economic Times

The recession has obviously taken it toll on the American public’s ability to use air travel the way they have in the past.  Airlines are seeing fewer passengers, cutting flights and operational expense wherever they can and are attempting to offset losses by charging for “extras.”

Last week, The New York Times ran a story on the toll the cuts have taken on one pilot and his familyThere was a letter to the editor followingMichael Moore has also taken up the topic in his new film and on his blog.  And so too, it became a topic of discussion among our members this week.  Let us all realize that this is a specialized skill set that is expensive and time-consuming to attain.  And, we entrust pilots with our lives.  Over at Jetwhine, there is a post this week asking “Who Will Fly for America Tomorrow?” Good question!

Landing Issues

Okay, that heading may be an understatement.  Monday, a Delta flight mistakenly landed on a taxiway instead of the designated runway at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.  And, yesterday, a Northwest flight passed right by its Minneapolis destination.

The FAA is investigating what could have been a very dangerous situation in Atlanta (via wbstv.com).  On the Northwest flight, the pilots claimed to have been discussing or arguing about airline policy (via NPR News and AP).  Although it has since been suggested that they may have been napping.  Since they did not have contact with controllers for over an hour, there was some initial concern that it could have been a hijack situation. Pending further investigation by the NTSB, the pilots have been suspended.


118 House members have signed a letter to President Obama encouraging the removal of user fees as a revenue source in the FAA Reauthorization Act.  The letter can be found here (via AOPA).  Business interests favor retaining the existing fuel tax structure, as it requires less administration.

A baby born on an AirAsia flight on Wednesday will get free flights for life (via Yahoo! News and AFP)!

Back To Blogging! HR 3371

Given the short period of time I’ve been at this, I need to find a way to better balance this responsibility when the rest of my life gets busy!   I apologize for the time away, I’m trying to get back to it!  I’ll cover the last few weeks in another post soon.

But today, I’ll acknowledge yesterday’s passage of HR 3371, the Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009.  Full text and action can be found via Thomas.gov.  Influenced by findings following the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407,  the bill addresses issues of pilot fatigue, training and licensing requirements (via Empire State News).

Executive Director, Gail Dunham, had these words for NADA/F members yesterday:

NADA/F founding members from AA3379, the commuter crash in Raleigh, Dec. 1994, first influenced this legislation [PRIA, the Pilots Records Improvement Act] in 1996.  Revisions have been made through the years, but this is a step up again.  We can be proud of our legislation and how it has grown.

More information on PRIA can be found in this 2002 GAO follow up report.

Subcommittee on Aviation: Sept 23

This morning, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Aviation is holding a hearing.  More information on the FAA’s “call to action” on airline safety and pilot training can be found on the committee websiteThe website also has a link to video of the hearing as it is going on, click the View Web Cast button in the upper left corner.

The topics of discussion are largely based on the NTSB public hearing for Continental Connection Flight 3407, which crashed in Buffalo, New York, killing fifty people.  While the NTSB has not yet issued a final report, the hearing highlighted the need for clarification or enhancement of regulation regarding pilot training, fatigue and rest.  In addition, oversight of existing regulatory compliance likely needs strengthening.


via twitter

@milesobrien was at the hearing today.  He is working on a documentary for Frontline, on Flight 3407, I assume.

@aviationweek will be hosting a fatigue management forum on October 13-14 in Miami, Florida.  Information on their website.

You can begin to follow our limited tweets too.  @planesafeorg

and via NPR’s All Things Considered

A great interview with Kevin Kuwik.  He is quite poised and articulate on the goals of the families during the hearing.

The Fall Session

Thank you to everyone who has given us positive feedback so far on this blogging effort!

As Congress is back in session today, now seems a good time to discuss some aviation-related issues that could come up this fall.  I use the word “could,” because as Robert Reich reiterated for me last Friday morning on the radio, their top priorities are health care, financial regulation and cap-and-trade.  As a result, aviation-related issues may well be on the back burner.

The most significant is the FAA reauthorization bill, which lapsed two years ago. The new long-term authorization is still working its way through the legislative process.  In the meantime, the FAA has been operating on legislation that provides short-term funding.  The latest of which, expires on September 30.  Kathryn A. Wolf of Congressional Quarterly reported last week that “the Senate is unlikely to complete its consideration” in September, “which probably will mean yet another short-term extension for the agency.”  ATWOnline has a good description of the current challenges in getting this bill ready for the president.

Barbara Hollingsworth of the Washington Examiner has a column out today describing  the Business Travel Coalition’s request for Congress and the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate Amerijet International.  She seems skeptical of increased oversight or action in the areas of maintenance and pilot fatigue, but not because of competing legislative issues, but because of recent history.

It is difficult to know what may come of Senator Charles Schumer’s outspoken criticism of new regulations regarding the Hudson River corridor, as not going “far enough” (via the New York Times).  Miles O’Brien wrote, very soon after the midair collision, that this was likely to happen.  That politicians would be eager to offer premature and perhaps reactionary suggestions that had little basis in expertise. I’m not sure that any legislative action would enhance what the NTSB and the FAA have already acted upon.

And, Jetwhine has a nice commentary from last week on the effectiveness (or not) of  a legislative fix to combat being stuck on a plane on the tarmac.


Our condolences, regarding the accidents.