Famous pilot supports 3407 crash victims’ families

CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) — Hero pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger braved some stormy weather to personally address the families of airline crash victims in Clarence, New York, outside of Buffalo.

Sullenberger is best known for making an emergency water landing in the Hudson River off Manhattan on Jan. 15, 2009.  Less than a month later, a regional jetliner crashed in Clarence Center, killing all 49 on-board and a man in his home at the time.

Sullenberger, who arrived in Western New York in sub-freezing weather said “I do have to be here. How could I not be here?”

He made his appearance at Clarence Town all, along with New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who had taken on the cause of the families working for tougher FAA safety standards. Sullenberger had been working toward the same goals long before the February 12, 2009 crash in Clarence.

After pilot error was determined to be the cause of the crash, the families successfully fought for more hours of pilot training, better training, and issues involving pilot fatigue.

Now there is a concern that the regional airlines may begin lobbying Congress to roll back some of the new laws, which include 1,500 hours of training before a pilot can be qualified to fly a jetliner. Sullenberger said the old minimum standard of 250 hours for regional co-pilots was “laughable.” He said that would mean some trainees would not even have completed one cycle of the change of seasons before beginning a commercial airline careers.

Sullenberger said he would “do whatever it takes,” to support the 3407 families when they go to Washington Wednesday to meet with new members of Congress.

The Federal Aviation Administration re-authorization bill will come up for a vote this year. Congressman Chuck Schumer said he is concerned the regional airline lobby will try to water down some of the most stringent standards.

“So we are here to send a message loud and clear,” said Schumer. “We will not let you change those regulations. Not dilute them, repeal them, make them less safe, ever!”

The senator said a claim that there is a shortage of pilots because of the tough laws and regulations is a bogus claim.

John Kausner, who lost his daughter Elly, said there is a “payment shortage” referring the the salaries of some pilots. “You can look today for advertising for first officers–$16,000 thousand dollars a year. That is not minimum wage in our country today,” he said.

To those who might attempt to ease safety standards, Sullenberger passionately declared: “I’d say come here to Buffalo. Come here to the crash site of flight 3407. See the memorial. See the faces of those who have been lost. Meet the families of those who have lost so much. And then you will understand what we unfortunately already know. And when it comes to costs, the real costs, the human costs, of not having the highest level…of safety, is a cost no family should ever have to bear.”

Many of the 3407 families have gone to Washington over and over again since the crash. The welcomed the “Miracle on the Hudson” pilot with open arms.

“He is the epitome of triumph in the airline industry. Ours is the epitome of tragedy,” said Karen Eckert, who lost her sister Beverly in the crash.

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