Weekly Feature

2018-10-10 / Editorials

Vigilance still necessary for pilot requirements

With the Senate’s long-sought five-year reauthorization for the Federal Aviation Administration, family members of the victims of the Flight 3407 crash can breathe a temporary sigh of relief, as the bill includes the pilot training requirements that they have campaigned relentlessly for in the aftermath of the deadly accident.

Yet nearly a decade after the crash that prematurely ended the lives of their loved ones, the families are still being unnecessarily required to make an annual pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., in order to remind lawmakers that it was their own determined efforts following the crash that resulted in the changed requirements for pilots to increase flight safety.

Since that time, the country has enjoyed the safest period of passenger air travel in history.

The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administrative Extension Act of 2010 implemented some of these changes, which included Airline Transport Pilot Certificate requirements of up to 1,500 hours of flight experience prior to hiring.

Previously, first officers were required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time.

The rule also requires first officers to have an aircraft-type rating, which involves additional training and testing specific to the airplanes they fly.

Federal investigators determined that Flight 3407, operated by the regional Colgan Air, crashed because the pilot reacted improperly to a stall warning and had never been fully trained to handle the plane’s stall-recovery equipment.

The National Transportation Safety Board report noted the captain’s inappropriate response to the activation of the stick shaker, a device connected to the control column of an aircraft that warns the pilot of an imminent stall. The report noted other contributing factors in the accident, including Colgan Air’s inadequate procedures for airspeed management during approaches in icing conditions.

While the Senate’s approval of FAA authorizations is a reprieve for the Flight 3407 families, it hardly gives them the ability to rest easy.

The families will continue to fight the Regional Airline Association’s attempts to weaken the part of the law that requires all newly hired pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight experience. The airline lobbying group argues that the requirement is causing a pilot shortage.

Our elected officials and the voting populace must ensure that the current air safety regulations are kept in place.

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