WASHINGTON – Citing parallels between the deadly 2009 plane crash in Clarence Center and the crash-landing in San Francisco that claimed two lives Saturday, Sen. Charles E. Schumer and Rep. Brian Higgins on Wednesday began a push for tougher international air safety standards.
At a news conference on Capitol Hill, Schumer and Higgins noted that in both the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 and the crash-landing of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 in San Francisco, the pilots inexplicably allowed the plane to slow to the point where a stall warning sounded and tragedy ensued.
That, they said, shows that foreign airlines may need tougher pilot-training standards such as the ones that the Federal Aviation Administration is set to adopt later this year, which will include training on how to handle aerodynamic stalls.
“Simply put, foreign airlines should require their pilots to undergo rigorous training, just as we are now making American pilots do, before flying in the U.S.,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. “If not, the FAA should consider limiting that carrier’s ability to fly in and out of the United States.”
Higgins agreed. “The tragedy of Flight 3407 provided insight into fatal aviation policy shortcomings and prompted needed pressure to transform existing training and safety requirements,” the Buffalo Democrat said. “We commend the work of the Flight 3407 families in getting us to this point. But we still have a way to go to see all the rules in place and international rules standardized.”
The lawmakers said they are asking the FAA to review international agreements and push strong aviation safety standards at the United Nations to ensure that pilots flying into and out of the United States undergo the same training as U.S. pilots.
Schumer said that he had discussed the issue with FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta and others at the agency who said it would be a good idea to push for that kind of standardization at the International Civil Aviation Organization’s meeting in New York in September. The ICAO is an arm of the United Nations.
Citing an article in Tuesday’s Buffalo News, Schumer noted that the San Francisco crash and several others in the last few years have something in common. “This crash and other recent crashes demonstrate a troubling pattern,” he said. “Pilots in these crashes are mishandling airspeed, which can lead to fatal stalls.”
“There is no reason that American passengers should be put at risk by poorly trained pilots in other countries,” Schumer said. “So we’re asking the FAA to push to make these rules a global standard if American passengers are involved.”
The ICAO includes about 191 countries, so setting an international standard could be difficult, but Schumer said he is hopeful.