Flight 3407 Families Receive Strong Support on 7th Anniversary Trip to DC

Flight 3407 Families Receive Strong Support on 7th Anniversary Trip to DC

Western NY Delegation Sends Strong Warning to Regional Airlines About Challenging Safety Initiatives

Buffalo, New York – February 3rd, 2016

With ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ co-pilot Jeff Skiles and the entire Western New York congressional delegation locked arm-in-arm alongside them, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407 made a strong stand for regional airline safety as they descended upon Washington in conjunction with the 7th anniversary of the needless tragedy.  The group was also buoyed by the support it received as its members conducted nearly 50 meetings on Capitol Hill calling on Congress to resist efforts by the Regional Airline Association and its lobbyist to water down stronger regional airline safety measures brought about by the passage of Public Law 111-216, ‘The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010.’

“To hear one of the most veteran members of Congress in Congresswoman Slaughter, side-by-side with such a steadfast supporter in Congressman Higgins, call our advocacy effort one of the most remarkable she has seen in all of her years of experience means so much to us,” stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert, a prominent 9/11 widow and activist.  “And then to have Congressmen Reed and Collins, who have been there for us every step of way, taking a stand for us as well truly speaks to the bipartisanship of our cause and our effort.”

As the group made the rounds on Capitol Hill after the press conference, in preparation for the release of language for the FAA Reauthorization Bill by the House’s Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, it was heartened by interaction between Congressman Collins and House Transportation Chairman Bill Shuster, which seemed to point towards Shuster’s support of a strong approach to regional airline safety standards advocated by the group in the Bill.

“From day one, our position on the FAA Reauthorization Bill is that it should at minimum preserve, if not even strengthen, the stronger regional airline safety measures brought about by our tragedy and the unanimous passage of Public Law 111-216,” stated John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty four year old daughter Ellyce.  “In particular, we are adamant that Congress does not touch the more stringent qualification standards for regional airline first officers.  Obviously you can never know for sure until the language is officially released, but we are encouraged that Chairmen Shuster and LoBiondo are going to be on our side on this one.  And we are extremely indebted to Congressman Collins for being so adamant for us on this issue with the Chairman.”

The group also highlighted the promise made by New York’s Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand to block any legislation in the Senate that would water down or roll back any of the new safety regulations brought about by P.L. 111-216. “Obviously we can never forget back in 2010 the devastation we felt when a senator threatened to block the safety legislation we were fighting so passionately for on account of his pet corporation and its lobbyist,” stated Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, another sister of Beverly Eckert.  “Now it is comforting to know that this powerful weapon is ready and willing to be used on behalf of a citizen advocacy group like ours.  Once again, we are so fortunate to have two diligent and determined members in Senators Schumer and Gillibrand fighting for us in the Senate.”

Finally the group hearkened back to the presence of First Officer Skiles in Washington, and the continued support of him and Captain Sully Sullenberger on behalf of their cause.  They also cited the dramatic improvement in regional airline safety in the wake of Flight 3407.  In the eight years from 2001 to the crash in 2009, there were six fatal commercial airline crashes, all on regional carriers; in the nearly seven years since the crash, there have not been any.  “It continues to be convenient for our opposition to mis-characterize our position as being obsessed with having young pilots fly around in circles towing banners,” stated Scott Maurer of Palmetto, Florida, who lost his thirty year old daughter Lorin.  “We have always said that we do not consider ourselves as the experts, and certainly were not the ones who came up with the concept for the legislation calling for these new qualification requirements that was unanimously approved by Congress, nor the final regulation that was developed by the FAA.  But absolutely no one can question the credentials of Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Skiles in this regard; who personify the idea that ‘Experience Matters,’ and have consistently defended the value of these higher experience requirements.  Most importantly, no one can argue with the results: since this very senseless crash, the comprehensive actions taken by Congress and the FAA, along with the increased scrutiny of regional airlines through the efforts of our group and numerous others, have resulted in an unprecedented era of regional airline safety.  It would be completely irresponsible to send the regionals any signal that a return to their previous short-cutting ways is acceptable.”

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

Flight 3407 Families Applaud FAA, DOT for Release of Safety Management Final Rule

Buffalo, New York – January 7, 2015

Challenge Regional Airlines to Continue to ‘Step Up to the Plate’

In light of this morning’s public release of a final rule requiring Safety Management Systems for all Part 121 carriers, The ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407′ commended Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta for their agencies’ work in implementing another key provision of Public Law 111-216, the Airline Safety Act.

“Today is another positive step towards our goal of achieving a TRUE ‘One Level of Safety’ between our nation’s regional and mainline passenger carriers,” stated Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert, a noted 9/11 widow and activist.   “It is so important that every passenger flying on a regional airline like Great Lakes Airlines receives the benefit of a commitment to and investment in best practice, data-driven safety programs that is commensurate with that of the major carriers like Southwest and Delta, a commitment and investment that my sister Beverly and everyone else lost on Flight 3407 sadly and tragically did not receive.   We want to express our heartfelt appreciation to Secretary Foxx and Administrator Huerta, and in particular Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety Peggy Gilligan and her whole team, for grinding through the rule making process to make this much-needed rule a reality.”

Wednesday’s announcement means that only two provisions from P.L. 111-216 remain to be implemented.  One of those provisions addresses the creation of a comprehensive electronic pilot training records database to be used in the screening and hiring of pilots, and the other focuses on implementing pilot professionalism programs at carriers, to include mentoring, leadership, and professional development aspects.

“Since this whole process began with the introduction of H.R. 5900 back in the summer of 2009, the heightened focus on enhancing regional airline safety by Congress, FAA, DOT, the airlines, pilots, and safety groups like ours has resulted in nearly six years and millions of flights with no fatal commercial crashes,” stated John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty-four year old daughter Elly in a crash that was less than one mile from his home.  “However, we cannot rest on our laurels; we cannot take our foot off the gas; as complacency remains our single-biggest enemy.  To those who would like to see some of these critical safety measures that have been implemented by FAA watered down or rolled back, we remind you of Elly and all of our loved ones no longer with us; their memory demands that we continue to do everything possible to ensure that the horrible and very preventable tragedy of Flight 3407 is never again allowed to repeat itself.  We call on the key players, from Secretary Foxx and Administrator Huerta, to the congressional leaders on the transportation and aviation committees and subcommittees, to continue to maintain the vigilance and highest standards of safety that has made our country’s very safe commercial aviation system even safer.”

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

Flight 3407 Families: Article Reiterates Regional Airlines’ “Race to the Bottom”, Need for FAA Safety Rules to Be Finalized

Buffalo, New York- June 3, 2013

The ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ reacted strongly to a Sunday article in the Buffalo News  where Dan Morgan, former Vice President of Safety and Regulatory Compliance for Colgan Air, acknowledged that a senior FAA official shared “very serious concerns about the safety culture at Colgan Air”, in a meeting with company officials just six months prior to the fatal crash of Flight 3407.

Family members also took offense with the revelation that Colgan was able to avoid FAA disciplinary action through the implementation of a safety Powerpoint presentation for its employees.   “It is sickening to hear once again, this time from an insider, the depths that the FAA allowed regional airlines to descend to,” declared John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty-four year-old daughter Elly in the crash.  “Obviously the convenient thing to do for Colgan and Pinnacle to do was to pin this on the pilot and first officer, but this account provides further evidence of an across-the-board, minor league operation at this airline, which resulted in numerous safety shortcuts and ultimately, the needless loss of so many lives.  Whether it be maintenance deficiencies, inexperienced pilots, or even the idea that a Colgan Vice President had to use a credit card to refuel a plane because the company hadn’t been paying its bills, this article dramatically highlights that our loved ones boarded a plane operated by an airline that was a disaster-waiting-to-happen.  And shame on the FAA, Continental, United, and everyone else who looked the other way and allowed this tragedy to occur.”

The family group used this article to call attention to two well-publicized rulemakings that have been stalled between FAA, DOT, and the White House Office of Management and Budget, which would significantly raise the safety bar for the nation’s regional airlines.  FAA Administrator Michael Huerta has pledged to have both rulemakings completed by their August and October deadlines.   “As we have throughout this whole process, we are going to continue to try and find a way to look forward and not back, as difficult as that continues to be,” stated Susan Bourque of East Aurora, New York, who lost her sister and prominent 9/11 widow and activist Beverly Eckert.  “With the impending rulemakings on pilot qualifications and crewmember training, FAA and DOT have an opportunity to significantly close the gap between regional airlines like Colgan and Pinnacle, and their mainline partners. This article should be another reminder for those working on these rulemakings, as well as everyone in the industry, of what can happen when economic concerns are allowed to trump safety.  We again call on Administrator Huerta to deliver on his promises.”

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