John D. Rockefeller, IVSenatorThe tragic accident of Flight 3407 is a chilling and horrific reminder that the aviation industry and Congress must be vigilant in maintaining the safety of the air transportation system.I am proud to say that last week this committee held a safety focused hearing examining the roles and responsibilities of the federal government in making certain the aviation industry adheres to the very highest safety standards.The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) made several commitments to address the safety concerns raised by the accident: the agency is renewing its dedication to safety and made specific promises to identify and promote best practices, examining the adequacy of current standards for pilot training and experience, and revisiting recommendations on crew fatigue made by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).As critical as the government’s role in the safety of the air transportation system is, however, the air carriers must be equal partners in making certain the air transportation system functions safely. It is the airlines that develop and implement the safety programs, hire and train the pilots, and operate and maintain the aircraft. Much of the responsibility for the safety of our aviation system rests with them.Airlines must make commitments to embrace the best practices across the industry if they are going to improve safety in a meaningful manner.Critical safety activities, such as the Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP), Flight Operation Quality Assurance (FOQA) program, and the Line Operations Safety Audit (LOSA), are conducted by most large air carriers and absolutely must be adopted throughout the entire industry.Regional carriers, in particular, need to make a commitment to implement these programs and the FAA and the larger airlines must also pledge to work with the regional air carriers to help them move forward with these activities as quickly as possible.The airlines must do all they can to promote these safe practices and foster a culture of extreme safety throughout their organizations to make sure their workers act with the highest professional standards and view safety as the fundamental value guiding their work every single day.Congress, and this committee, will be watching the industry closely, and I expect progress to be made.I also believe that we in Congress need to hold ourselves accountable for our role in making sure the air transportation system functions safely. For our part, we must move forward with FAA reauthorization legislation that will accelerate the modernization of the air transportation system.NextGen will produce dramatic safety gains by providing both pilots and air traffic controllers more precise information on aircraft location and weather patterns in real-time. This technology will produce substantial environmental and efficiency improvements for the industry.The U.S has always been the world’s leader in aviation, and to continue this tradition we must take concrete action to preserve the public’s trust in the safety of the air transportation system.Now is the time to move forward with meaningful action.I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today and I’d like to thank them for taking the time to participate in this hearing.###
Kay Bailey HutchisonSenator
STATEMENT OF HON. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON,
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE AND TRANSPORTATION
SubCOMMITTEE HEARING aviation safety: the role and
responsibilities of commercial air carriers and
JUNE 17, 2009
Senator Dorgan, thank you for holding these hearings in the wake of the Colgan accident. The last hearing was very informative and I think gave us a good base for additional safety issues we need to address in the FAA Reauthorization bill. I look forward to working with you as we move forward.
I would also like to welcome our witnesses, and extend a special thank you to Mr. Maurer (pronounced Mao-er) for his participation in the hearing. It is always difficult to lose a loved one, especially under such traumatic circumstances. We sincerely appreciate your participation today.
Despite the remarkable safety record of the U.S. aviation industry, the tragic accident of Flight 3407 reminds us we must remain vigilant and aggressively work to improve upon our safety systems, especially in areas that have long challenged the industry such as fatigue, training, pilot experience, and professional responsibility.
As I stated at our last hearing, I have great confidence in the safety of our aviation system, but it is obvious there is still room for improvement. As the FAA Reauthorization process moves forward, I plan to be an active member of this Subcommittee to address a number of important safety issues. While the potential list is long, some of the issues we should consider include:
The inadequacies of the Pilot Records Improvement Act should be considered. Air carriers should be able to view a complete history of a pilot, including check ride failures for an entire career, not just the most recent 5 year period, in order to make informed hiring decisions.
This Committee should consider making the Flight Operational Quality Assurance program mandatory. The program has proven to be an important safety tool and should be part of every airline safety system. Most carriers already have it in effect, those who don’t, should.
We need to get a better grasp on crew member fatigue issues. We need to look at best practices in the industry and scientific data and come up with a system that addresses the unique circumstances of different sectors of the aviation industry. One blanket policy won’t address the business model and operational differences between mainline and regional carriers.
Finally, I was very concerned with Department of Transportation, Inspector General Scovel’s comments at the last hearing regarding the potential lack of “one level of safety” between our mainline carriers and regional carriers.
While regional carriers do operate under the same minimum requirements, they need to be more aggressive at implementing more robust safety programs, especially those programs pertaining to crew management and training.
Senator Dorgan, thank you for holding this hearing and I look forward to the testimony.
Mr. Jim MayPresident and Chief Executive OfficerAir Transport Association of America
Captain John PraterPresidentAirline Pilots Association International
Mr. Scott MaurerRepresentative of the Families of Continental Flight 3407
Mr. Roger CohenPresidentRegional Airline Association