Congressmembers Ask Transportation Committee to Formally Withdraw Measure that Threatens Flight Safety
Western New York Congressmembers Brian Higgins (NY-27) and Louise Slaughter (NY-28) joined a bipartisan group of 28 members of the House of Representatives calling upon the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to formally remove the Sec. 826 (The Shuster Amendment) from the FAA Reauthorization Act (H.R. 658).
“We will not rest with the announcement of the intent to drop the Shuster Amendment- the fact is that it still remains in the bill,” said Higgins. “We will fight until it is actually removed and will fight it when it is proposed in future legislation.”
“As I have mentioned to the families of Flight 3407, the legislative process is about dogged determination and perseverance,” said Slaughter. “Until we are assured that the Shuster Amendment will be removed from the bill, our perseverance must continue and I will continue to join them in that effort.”
Congressmembers Higgins and Slaughter, along with Congresswoman Jean Schmidt and Congressman Steve Stivers, led the letter which was also signed by Congressmembers Thaddeus McCotter, Jerrold Nadler, Bob Filner, Jim Gerlach, Peter King, Timothy Bishop, Shelley Berkley, Steven LaTourette, Bill Johnson, Mazie Hirono, Edolphus Towns, Walter Jones, Steve Israel, Candice Miller, Michael Turner, Russ Carnahan, Tim Holden, Albio Sires, Chip Cravaack, Rush Holt, Leonard Boswell, Gary Ackerman, Bill Pascrell and Rick Larsen.
Below is the text of the letter sent by Higgins, Slaughter and their colleagues:
Dear Chairman Mica, Ranking Member Rahall, Chairman Petri, and Ranking Member Costello:
Thank you for your leadership on reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It is our understanding that Congressman Shuster has withdrawn his amendment, Sec. 826 of the FAA Reauthorization Act, H.R.658. We write to express our support for the removal of Sec. 826 from the final bill due to its ramifications on safety.
Sec. 826 was added by a slim majority vote as an amendment to the bill. It imposes additional requirements for FAA to follow in its rulemaking process. All the information we have received from FAA, NTSB and other sources since the House voted on the Sec. 826 indicates the provision would have consequences that could hurt aviation safety.
The new pilot flight and duty time rulemaking is congressionally mandated to be finalized by August 1, 2011. Sec. 826 requires the FAA to draw out this process even further, delaying important safety regulations to address fatigue. This critical rule is intended to address the issue of pilot fatigue, which is a priority for FAA and has been on the National Traffic Safety Board’s (NTSB) Most Wanted List for over twenty years.
After the House passed H.R. 658, FAA expressed reservations about Sec. 826 saying it would “slow down rulemaking projects underway and in the future” and would impede its efforts to create “one level of safety.” NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman is also concerned that this language would have hindered FAA implementation of the safety reforms enacted in H.R. 5900, the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010 and other key measures to improve safety. This landmark legislation came about as a result of the February 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407. This tragedy revealed the need for certain safety improvements to our commercial aviation system, particularly with our regional airlines.
It is imperative that the reforms and safety improvements the families of the victims fought so hard for last year move forward without hindrance. We should also ensure we do not impede other future rulemakings that will increase safety. For these reasons, we strongly support the removal of Sec. 826 from the final bill.
Thank you for your efforts to improve aviation safety and for your consideration of this important matter.