BUFFALO, NY (WBFO) – Two recent deadly air incidents show why the Federal Aviation Administration must not give in to political pressure and roll back safety standards, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer said during a local visit.
Schumer referred to the recent mid-air explosion of an engine which led to the death of a Southwest Airlines passenger. He also referred to a recent tourist helicopter crash in New York City’s East River.
But the New York Democrat also looked to updated air safety regulations passed following an intensive lobbying effort by the families of victims of Flight 3407, which crashed in Clarence in 2009.
“They’re still at it. I met with them about a month ago in Washington,” Schumer said. “These airlines are trying to undo the regulations. I don’t know if they (FAA) have learned their lesson from 3407.”
Those rules include more mandatory flight experience – a minimum 1,500 hours – before pilots may be allowed to operate a commercial passenger jet. Airlines are among those lobbying to roll back that rule, arguing it has made hiring pilots more difficult.
“They say they can’t get enough pilots. I say when your starting salary is $21,000, of course you’re not going to get enough pilots,” Schumer said in response to those claims.
The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered the inspection of more than 300 jet engines, engines similar to the one aboard a Southwest Airlines-operated Boeing 737 which exploded mid-flight, showering the fuselage and breaking a window, leading to a passenger being partially sucked out from the inside. Her injuries were fatal.
The senator says flying, in general remains safe but the FAA must not become complacent.
“The FAA’s got to get with it. I’ve called on the FAA to re-up their safety regimen,” Schumer said. “Everyone wants to fly. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still safe to fly. I fly all the time. But safety has to come number one.”