Families, WNY lawmakers ready to fight again for safer skies

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Families of the victims of flight 3407 have campaigned for years on Capitol Hill for tougher regulations for pilots. And they’ve achieved victories — and some solace — in making the nation’s skies safer to fly.

But a federal advisory panel is trying to reverse those efforts, with a report this week to the FAA that proposes to eliminate key provisions for which the Families of Flight 3407 and federal lawmakers fought since 2010.

Representatives of both groups said Friday they are willing to rekindle the fight, but they may need to act quickly.

“The American public needs to realize this could be the difference between life and death. And that’s what it was to us,” said Marilyn Kausner, whose daughter Ellyce died along with 49 others when the plane went down in Clarence Center in February 2009.

In the years since, Marilyn and her husband John have helped to lead the charge of change, so their daughter’s death would not be in vain.

“We’ve been there not every year, (rather) every month, just about,” John Kausner added.

The rules they helped enact, with the help of Western New York lawmakers like Sen. Chuck Schumer and Congressman Chris Collins, are being threatened yet again.

Collins said Friday Congress must act quickly.

“We’re certainly going to be telling him (FAA Administrator Michael Huerta) that that’s thwarting the will of Congress, which was very clear,” Collins said. “There was no ambiguity whatsoever in the 1,500 hours (requirement).”

The Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee said in a report to the FAA this week that 1,500 hours of training for pilots’ flying certificate is over burdensome– and has led to fewer pilots.

Schumer says that’s not why there are fewer pilots.

“You’re not going to get many people to be pilots when you make more flipping hamburgers at McDonald’s,” said Schumer, adding that the starting salary for some smaller airlines is between $21,000-$25,000.

“If they’d pay them a decent salary, which a pilot obviously deserves, they would,” Schumer said. “So I want to say this: Any bill that attempts to reduce the 1,500 hours, I will prevent and do everything I can to keep it from passing. It will be dead in the water. Hear that loud and clear, airline industry, and anyone else who tries to do it.”

He also pointed to the fact that lawmakers paired with impassioned families proved to be an insurmountable force before, so they’ll follow a similar path this time.

“The airline industry has a lot of heavily paid lobbyists,” Schumer said. “But we have the families. And I’d bet on the families.”

Collins said congressional action may take the form of stripping Huerte the power of reversing an act of Congress.

“We don’t trust them as far as we can throw them,” Collins said of the advisory group. “So we’re going to have to move quickly.”

 

 

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