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Schumer fights effort to weaken pilot experience requirements

WASHINGTON – Airlines are pressing once again to weaken the pilot experience requirements imposed after the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3047 in Clarence in 2009, and Sen. Charles E. Schumer is once again pressing back against the airlines.

A Wall Street Journal report Friday indicated that an industry-government working group was developing a proposal that would modestly weaken the requirement that copilots on commercial aircraft generally have 1,500 hours of experience before becoming hired. The current rules allow military pilots with as little as 750 hours of experience to get copilot jobs, but the working group proposal – aimed at stemming a pilot shortage – would reduce that requirement to 500 hours.

In response, Schumer sent a letter to Michael Huerta, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, objecting to any changes to the current pilot experience requirements, which Congress imposed in a 2010 aviation safety law backed by the Families of Continental 3407.

“Any attempt to weaken or create a loophole in the requirements would be an affront both to aviation safety, the flying public and to the families affected by the Flight 3407 crash,” said Schumer, D-N.Y., who led the fight for passage of that aviation safety law. Some 49 people aboard Flight 3407, and another on the ground, died when the plane plummeted into a house in Clarence Center on Feb. 12, 2009. A federal investigation into the crash found that the pilot, who had a poor training record, and the inexperienced copilot both made errors that contributed to the crash.

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