Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Aviation Safety: One Year After the Crash of Flight 3407

February 25, 2010

JDR Head ShotWASHINGTON, D.C.— Just over a year ago, the tragic crash of Flight 3407 in Buffalo, New York took the lives of 50 people.

The facts that have emerged over the last 12 months about this crash raise several serious concerns about the safety of regional air carriers and the commercial airline industry.

It is clear from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that we need to take serious, urgent steps to improve pilot training, address flight crew fatigue, and reform air carrier employment practices. The travelling public’s safety is at stake.

Over the past year, this Subcommittee has held eight hearings on aviation safety and I want to commend Senator Dorgan’s tremendous commitment to keeping these issues front and center. His work has been critical to several provisions added to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill, S. 1451, focused specifically on increasing the level of safety in the commercial airline industry.

The Committee’s work has also prompted the FAA to initiate a number of key efforts to improve aviation safety. The agency’s work has led several air carriers to make voluntary commitments to implement important safety measures. The FAA has also committed to issuing new regulations on flight and duty time limitations in the coming months.

Despite this important progress, our work is far from complete. We must pass the FAA reauthorization bill as soon as possible to make certain the agency has the direction and the resources it needs to fulfill its safety oversight responsibilities.

The Senate reauthorization bill will also accelerate FAA modernization and this effort cannot be understated. The NextGen program will dramatically improve aviation safety by transforming the current air traffic control system to a digital, satellite-based system providing pilots and air traffic controllers much more precise situational awareness and weather information. We cannot allow America to fall behind.

I want to thank today’s witnesses. I look forward to their testimony. We must continue to work together and remain vigilant in our commitment to making certain our air transportation system is as safe as possible.