June 29, 2017

Duckworth Fights to Protect Passengers and Improve Flight Safety


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] - At a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee hearing this morning, former Army Black Hawk pilot and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) pushed back against efforts to reduce the number of training hours that passenger airline pilots are required to log before receiving a pilot's license that enables them to be trusted with the lives of hundreds of people. Current rules requiring pilots to log between 750 and 1500 training hours were put in place following the 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in New York, which killed 49 people. In the 20 years prior to the crash, 1,136 people died in passenger air crashes in the United States-but not a single person has been lost since. Video of the Senator's remarks in opposition to the effort to reduce flight training hours is available here.

"This isn't just a matter of training hours - it's a matter of life and death for every single pilot and airline passenger," said Duckworth. "Flying has always been a passion of mine and I know firsthand how risky it can be to fly without the necessary training and experience. There is a reason pilots often say FAA regulations are written in blood - if a pilot isn't fully prepared to handle any unexpected weather or flying condition, human lives may be in jeopardy. I won't stop fighting to protect the lives of everyone on board an aircraft until we have rules in place to ensure airline pilots get the training they need to avoid needless tragedies."

"We can't control harsh weather patterns, but we can control how prepared a pilot is to handle unexpected situations in flight - and trust me, there is no training substitute for actual flying time and real-world experience," said Captain "Sully" Sullenberger, who heroically landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River after the plane's engines lost power, keeping all passengers and crew members safe. "Efforts to reduce flying hours fly in the face of evidence and logic, and put millions of lives at risk. We should be doing everything we can to improve - not reduce - the safety of pilots and passengers. We owe it to the American traveling public to preserve the safety standards that have been proven to save lives and have resulted in eight-plus years without any fatal crashes on U.S. commercial flights, an all-time record. We cannot allow airlines to weaken them for their own convenience."

Duckworth's effort to protect airline passengers and employees alike was ultimately voted down on a party line vote of 13-14. She also introduced several other provisions to create jobs, improve airline safety and protect travelers with disabilities, many of which passed the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee today as part of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2017 and will now be considered by the full Senate.