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 Call on FAA, Congress to Stand Up to Regionals’ Pressure to Weaken Safety Rules

Flight 3407 Families Call on FAA, Congress to Stand Up to Regionals’ Pressure to Weaken Safety Rules

RAA Conveniently Forgets That Flight 3407 Pilot Was Initially Hired by Regional Airline with Only 600 Hours of Flight Time

Buffalo, New York – December 3rd, 2015

Responding to a Regional Airline Association media campaign to pressure the FAA to roll back a safety rule that has been in effect for barely two years, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ rallied to the defense of a landmark aviation safety law that has resulted in our nation’s safest period of travel on regional carriers.

“Public Law 111-216, the Airline Safety Act, has resulted in 2,486 days and counting of no other father having to grieve for his daughter who was lost in a needless and very preventable tragedy due to the glaring safety gaps in some of our nation’s regional carriers back in 2009,” stated Scott Maurer of Palmetto, Florida, who lost his thirty year old daughter Lorin.  “This comprehensive law, which included provisions focused on pilot qualifications, screening, training, and fatigue, was the result of the unanimous support of Congress in concert with the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Transportation.  When combined with the heightened scrutiny of the flying public, it has forced some of the ‘bottom feeder’ regional airlines to step up to the plate when it comes to safety, and we have six-plus years of no fatal crashes as a result.  Those results should speak for themselves as to the effectiveness of this law, and it would be absolutely irresponsible for any branch of our government to reverse course and send these regionals a message that they can revert back to their old methods that resulted in 6 fatal crashes in the previous decade.  Hopefully Secretary Fox, Administrator Huerta, Chairmen Thune and Shuster, and Ranking Members Nelson and DeFazio will continue to stand up for the safety of the flying public and resist the back-room maneuvering of these airline lobbyists.”
The group was referencing recent media coverage detailing a Regional Airline Association proposal to water down strengthened entry-level qualification requirements for new-hire regional airline first officers, proposing additional entry-level training for their new hires in their place.

“We hearken back to the powerful testimony of Captain Sullenberger at the Senate and House hearings last spring, as to why these heightened experience requirements are so critical to ensure that aspiring regional airline first officers are better-prepared and more fully vetted prior to entering a cockpit with our loved ones in the back of their plane,” stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert, a prominent 9/11 widow and activist.  “We find it very ironic that the RAA proposal contains so many elements of the Airline Safety Act, including mentoring and stall and upset recovery training, some of which have not yet been completely put into place by the FAA.  As we look at their proposal, glaringly absent are any ideas to address the salary, working conditions, and career path issues that Captain Sullenberger correctly pointed out was the root cause of the industry’s difficulty in attracting young pilots.  Instead, here they are coming to the government with their hands out looking for a bailout.  It just seems to us that if these programs are the gold standard of preparing young pilots, these regional airlines should implement them because it’s the right thing to do; not just to secure some concessions from FAA or Congress.”

Finally, the group addressed a continued RAA talking point about the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate requirement being unnecessary because both of the pilots on Flight 3407 had well over the ATP-mandated fifteen hundred hours of flight time prior to the crash. “The only thing that ‘baffles’ us is that these regional airline CEO’s and their hired-gun lobbyists continue to conveniently forget that Flight 3407’s pilot was hired by one of their association’s members for his initial Part 121 job with only 600 hours of experience,” stated John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty-four year old daughter Ellyce when the plane crashed less than one mile from his family’s home.  “Had the current requirements been in place at the time, and the pilot been required to attain additional flight experience and seasoning, it is very possible that this additional vetting may have kept him from ever setting foot in the cockpit of a commercial airliner.  For decades, our nation’s mainline carriers have required their pilots to possess an ATP.  The results speak for themselves: There have been no fatal crashes on our nation’s mainline carriers in the last 15 years.  To us, having a true ‘One Level of Safety’ between our nation’s mainline and regional carriers demands that regionals make the same commitment to, and investment, in safety and training that the mainline carriers do, and this is just one means of making that a reality.  Of course, no reporter or government official should take our word for it; instead they should just ask Captain Sullenberger and First Officer Skiles – their efforts in the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’ resoundingly prove that experience does matter, and that this First Officer Qualifications rule is truly vital for enhancing the safety of the traveling public.”

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