Chao: Robust Discussion on Reducing Flight Training Hour Requirements a Good Idea

Schumer and Higgins quick to push back

Tom Puckett
June 07, 2018 - 4:15 pm
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Washington, DC (WBEN) During a discussion with the Washington Post, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao believes changes may be needed to the pilto training requirements put in place following the crash of Flight 3407 in 2009. Two area lawmakers are not happy about it.

“There is a 1,500 hour rule which came about because of the tragic accident in upstate New York and it was a tragedy of a commuter aircraft that resulted in fatality.  So our hearts go out to the families and the relatives of the people who have been lost.  But it was because of that, that it was thought that not enough hours were accumulated by these commuter aircraft airline pilots. And so the requirement for the hours required to fly certain types of aircraft was increased.  But that has actually made it so much harder, for so many other experienced veterans in flying to enter this field.  This is obviously a very sensitive subject, and until the Congress advises us otherwise, it’s very hard for us to do anything on that obviously because we have to comply with the rules and regulation and the law," says Chao.

She says there needs to be a robust discussion about the possiblity of reducing the required number of hours. "Becauseobviously we hold the memories of those who are lost in our hearts, and we don’t ever want to see an accident like that again or any accident ever occur.  But there is this side effect, unanticipated, corollary impact of reducing the number of pilots, pilots who can very safely fly in our sky.  So I think Congress needs to have this discussion and we will abide by the wishes of Congress," notes Chao.

Congressman Brian Higgins not thrilled with Chao's comments. “Secretary Chao’s comments today ignore the verifiable fact that trained pilots save lives.  The families of Flight 3407 have fought for years to ensure that these important flight safety measures were enacted and preserved, saving others from the same tragedy their families endured and leading to safer skies for everyone. Ask passengers boarding an airplane who is willing to settle for a pilot that is less trained and I don’t believe one flyer would volunteer to make that sacrifice.  With Flight 3407, Captain Sully’s Miracle on the Hudson, and the most recent Southwest incident, history shows us again and again that training and experience matter," says Higgins. “Congress has already had discussion on this, held numerous hearings and taken action. A compromise on flight safety is a compromise on human life, a concession we must not be willing to make.”

Senator Chuck Schumer responds, “It is dangerous and outrageous that the Department of Transportation would even suggest watering down the First Officer Qualification rule, which has done so much to improve air passenger safety. Not only is it an affront to the 3407 families’ efforts over the last nine years, but will also  put the safety of the traveling public at great risk.  I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the 3407 families and will aggressively fight to keep these life-saving standards in place,”

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