Klobuchar Urges Regional Air Carriers to Improve Safety

Thursday, June 18th, 2009 at 5:32 am

Washington, D.C. – At a hearing of the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation today, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar questioned airline experts about how regional airlines can improve safety and better implement federal aviation safety standards.  Klobuchar urged regional air carriers to address safety issues that were exposed by the crash of Colgan Air Flight #3407 in Buffalo, New York.  In a hearing last week that examined the role of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Klobuchar called on the FAA to strengthen oversight of regional airlines.

“We can never be complacent about air safety,” said Klobuchar.  “We’ve learned that many pilots for regional carriers are, in some cases, tired and fatigued – and this can have tragic consequences.  To help ensure the safety of passengers, we must address the issue of pilot fatigue and make sure pilots are alert and well-rested.”

Today, regional airlines operate half of all domestic departures and move approximately a quarter of the country’s passengers.  Various industry experts have questioned whether the regional airlines are as safe as larger commercial airlines.  Regional carriers have been involved in five of the last seven accidents involving U.S. air carriers.

The hearing examined issues such as pilot fatigue, poor pilot training, de-icing issues and low pilot compensation.  Klobuchar noted that de-icing and pilot issues played a role in the crash of Senator Paul Wellstone’s plane.

Klobuchar has called on the Senate to pass legislation, The Aviation Inspection Safety Act, which she authored with Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) to toughen airline safety rules and bring an end to the cozy relationship that has developed between airlines and the FAA.

Last year, FAA inspectors disclosed that Southwest Airlines had continued flying airplanes even though critical safety checks involving cracks in aircraft fuselages had not been performed on approximately 50 jets. That same year, American Airlines cancelled nearly 2,000 flights in order to catch up on inspections of aircraft wiring – inspections that should have been performed previously under its agreement with the FAA.

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