The public owes the Families of Continental Flight 3407 for putting aside their grief and pushing Congress into passing aviation safety legislation in 2010.
Federal officials finally unveiled new rules for pilot training intended to prevent another crash like the one that took 50 lives, including one person on the ground, in Clarence nearly five years ago.
Prior to that awful tragedy, passengers likely assumed that their pilots were trained in such things as recovering from midair upsets or stalls. Unbelievably, it turned out that pilots were not required to be trained in such vital skills. That information and much more flowed from a federal investigation and the invaluable push by the Families of Flight 3407. It led to long-overdue changes in the standards for pilots, the amount of rest they must have and, now, tougher rules on pilot training. Pushback from the airline industry threatened to derail the changes at every turn.
The Federal Aviation Administration delayed and delayed rolling out the new rules. Advocates who were less motivated would have given up, but the families refused to quit, and the flying public will benefit from their stubbornness. Drawing on their efforts, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., led the political fight to make the new rules happen.
Although the stringent pilot training rules were a necessary outcome of the crash, they will not take effect until February 2019, a decade after the crash. Let’s hope that FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta is right and airlines adopt them sooner.
The rules will require commercial pilots to receive simulator training on how to prevent and recover from aerodynamic stalls, similar to the one that led to the crash of Flight 3407.
Another requirement for pilots involves expanded crosswind training, including training for dealing with wind gusts. Air carriers will have to track remedial training for pilots with performance deficiencies and train staff to monitor the performance of their pilots. The FAA will implement enhanced runway safety procedures.
The relief expressed by family members at finally seeing the new rules is understandable, but caution remains the watchword, as some steps remain to be accomplished. Specifically, supplemental rules on upgrading flight simulators to comply with the new pilot training rules must be finalized. Also left undone is a section of the new training rules meant to address training for flight attendants and dispatchers.
Waiting for those elements would have caused more delays and missed deadlines on the major work of improving pilot training. Now the public, lawmakers and, most importantly, the FAA must make sure these pieces are not forgotten.