Tougher train­ing, track­ing of re­gional pi­lots ap­proved

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION -

WASHINGTON — Re­spond­ing to the deaths of 50 peo­ple in the crash last year of a Con­ti­nen­tal Air­lines flight near Buf­falo, N.Y., Congress passed leg­is­la­tion Fri­day re­quir­ing in­creased train­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence for re­gional air­line pi­lots.

The House passed the mea­sure, which also ex­tends Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion fund­ing, on a voice vote just be­fore mid­night Thurs­day, and the Se­nate ap­proved an iden­ti­cal piece of leg­is­la­tion Fri­day morn­ing. No mem­ber of ei­ther House ob­jected.

The leg­is­la­tion re­quires all air­line pi­lots to log at least 1,500 hours of flight time be­fore fly­ing pas­sen­gers, up from the cur­rent 250-hour min­i­mum for newly hired co-pi­lots. The bill also boosts train­ing, man­dates the cre­ation of a na­tional data­base of pi­lot records to help air­lines con­duct back­ground checks be­fore hir­ing, and aims to re­duce pi­lot fa­tigue by di­rect­ing the FAA to update rules on pi- lot duty hours.

In ad­di­tion, pas­sen­gers who shop for air­line tick­ets on­line must be no­ti­fied which car­rier will op­er­ate each seg­ment of the itin­er­ary.

The bill, which Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Ill., lauded as the strong­est air­line safety leg­is­la­tion in decades, was drafted in re­sponse to a Con­ti­nen­tal flight op­er­ated by re­gional car­rier Col­gan Air that crashed in Fe­bru­ary 2009, killing all 49 peo­ple on board and one per­son on the ground.

Re­gional air­lines were in­volved in the past seven fa­tal U.S. air­line ac­ci­dents, and pi­lot per­for­mance was a fac­tor in four cases, said Costello, who chairs the House Avi­a­tion Sub­com­mit­tee.

Re­gional and com­muter air­lines, which are most af­fected, voiced con­cerns that the govern­ment was get­ting too in­volved in train­ing is­sues.

Congress in­tends to have a com­pre­hen­sive air­line bill ready by Sept. 30, when the lat­est ex­ten­sion of FAA fund­ing ex­pires.

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