Buffalo, New York – May 27, 2021 – Twelve years after showing up in Washington for the initial National Transportation Safety Board hearing into the crash and making the first of what would become over seventy-five trips to Washington, the ‘Families of Continental Flight 3407’ at long last achieved closure with the finalization of the pilot record database, the last remaining initiative to be implemented from the landmark 2010 aviation safety legislation that Congress passed as a result of the crash. The group thanked the executive agencies who worked on the project, as well as their advocates in Congress and the aviation sector who fought alongside them for over a decade, and reflected on the memories of their loved ones who were lost in the crash.
“This database is a huge step in the right direction in ensuring that the hiring mistakes made by Colgan and Atlas Air are never repeated,” declared Ken Mellett of McLean, Virginia, who lost his thirty-four year old son Coleman, a jazz guitarist in the Chuck Mangione Band. “I had the chance to get to know the FAA team working on the nuts and bolts of this project, and I can’t say enough about the tremendous effort that they put into this. Beyond that, our group owes a major debt of gratitude to Administrator Dickson and his leadership team for heading up this effort over the last few years. And to Secretary Buttigieg and the entire operation at DOT, as well as the Biden administration in general, for making this a priority in their initial months on the job and seeing it through to completion. And finally, to the countless others at FAA, DOT, OMB, and of course the NTSB who have all played a crucial role in the last twelve years in making every piece of this safety law possible. Today is our son Coley’s birthday and this is truly the best present we could have wished for.”
Congress mandated the creation of the electronic record database to close a loophole in the hiring process where pilot applicants were able to conceal previous training deficiencies from potential future employers. One of the pilots of Flight 3407 did not disclose multiple failed check rides in his application to Colgan Air, prompting a company official to testify at a Senate hearing that the pilot would not have been hired had his entire training history been known.
“We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge the constant and impactful support of the Western New York congressional delegation,” stated John Kausner of Clarence Center, New York, who lost his twenty-four year old daughter Ellyce, a 2nd year law student, as the plane crashed less than a mile from his family home. “Chuck Schumer, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Brian Higgins have powerfully been there with us every day and every step of the way. Tom Reed took office one year later and ever since has been a crucial bipartisan voice for everything we have fought for. Louise Slaughter was a fierce advocate for us and we know she is smiling down on us as we speak. And we must thank Chris Lee, Kathy Hochul, and Chris Collins for their help along the way. This crash tore a hole in the heart of the whole Buffalo and Western New York community, and it means so much that our elected leaders came through when we needed them for Elly and all the others who were lost.”
Not only did the group’s efforts result in the unanimous (that is not a misprint) Congressional passage of Public Law 111-216 ‘The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010’, it has led to the FAA promulgating six new regulations that strengthened safety requirements in the areas of pilot fatigue, stall training, entry-level qualification requirements, professional development, and airline safety management systems (as well as the creation of the pilot record database). Additionally the law required multiple safety studies, Inspector General oversight reports, and enhanced disclosure requirements for mainline carriers when selling tickets on flights operated by regional carriers.
“Beverly left us the bread crumbs to follow in how she fought for the creation of the 9/11 commission and all the other critical intelligence and security improvements, and we tried to walk in her footsteps as closely as possible”, stated Karen Eckert of Williamsville, New York, who lost her sister and noted 9/11 widow and activist Beverly Eckert. “To every staffer who took a meeting with us, to every member who signed onto a letter on our behalf, to the committees and subcommittees who tirelessly worked on crafting this legislation and then maintained visibility and oversight on its implementation… today’s achievement wouldn’t be possible without you. The first time we met with Senator Dorgan he told us that the world is run by those who show up. Well, for the last twelve years, we showed up… and we showed up… and we kept showing up… in honor of Beverly and all the others who we lost. Today, I know that they are looking down on us and so proud.”
The group also highlighted the unprecedented safety record that the safety law and resulting safety initiatives have driven, as there has now not been a fatal crash on a U.S. commercial carrier in over twelve years. Previously, the U.S. aviation system had not gone 3 years without such a crash.
“Sadly there has been pushback at times along the way, but the facts are undeniable and speak for themselves… the law is working in a big way,” declared Scott Maurer of Palmetto, Florida, who lost his thirty year old daughter Lorin, an athletic department fundraiser at Princeton University. “Obviously our group has been the face of this effort, but we have never professed to be the experts. Instead, we have been extremely fortunate to have the firm support of so many professional pilots and aviation safety experts, most notably, Sully Sullenberger and Jeff Skiles of the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’. Their wise counsel and vocal advocacy gave our efforts an unimpeachable credibility that could not be overlooked or ignored. They remain the gold standard for what we wish for in the cockpit of every plane carrying ourselves and our loved ones around the country. My wife Terry and I miss Lorin dearly every single day, but it gives us some solace that the skies are safer today for every other daughter, son, wife, husband, mother, or father who boards a plane.”
For additional information about the legislation see the link below:
Press Release - FAA Completes Rule Establishing Pilot Records Database to Increase Safety
Family survivors, Terry & Scott Maurer along with Kathy Johnston and Tina Siniscalco, will share more about their work at the 2021 Foundation Meeting.