Flight 3407 families back in DC fighting to preserve aviation safety reforms

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Continental Connection Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence Center eight years ago, killing 50 people.

Now, family members of crash victims are back in Washington fighting for safer skies.

They want the government to keep the current pilot safety rules they fought for and were passed in 2010.

The families and members of Western New York’s Congressional delegation say since the flight safety rules were enacted, there have been no passenger airline deaths in the United States.

They have a message for anyone pushing to change the rules.

Don’t do it.

“I want the airlines to hire pilots that know what they are doing and have the best training they can get,” said 10-year old Summer West, who lost her father Ernie West in the 2009 crash.

“Don’t you know that lives are more important than money,” she stated Tuesday during a news conference with local lawmakers.

Pilot error and inadequate training were cited as factors that contributed to the air disaster.

House and Senate committees are set to work on legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration, which at this point does not include changes to the air safety reforms.

There’s been talk about the possibility of amendments that could rollback some of the pilot requirements.

Some are pressuring lawmakers to water down a requirement that newly hired pilots have 1,500 hours of flight time.

“We’re going to do everything we can to prevent any legislation from being rolled back,” said Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat and Senate Minority leader.

The families have made dozens of trips to Washington over the years, and now they’re back again as the airlines argue that the flight time requirement has led to a shortage of pilots.

“What is being proposed is a rule change that will allow less experienced pilots to fly commercial jets, again,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, who said he will stand with the families in opposing any change to the safety rules.

“The safety of the flying public should never be compromised again. I am prepared, along with the Western New York delegation, and with the 3407 families, to protect these reforms once again,” said Higgins during a brief appearance on the House floor.

In a prepared video statement released Tuesday, Sen. Schumer said that he’s hoping to be successful in keeping the pilot requirements intact.

“I will be telling every senator, what happened with 3407 must never happen again, and we cannot allow any, any regression,” Schumer added.

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