WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Collins says that he came away from a recent conversation with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao feeling confident that her department won't try to tamper with a key but controversial aviation safety regulation stemming from the 2009 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence.
Collins spent about 20 minutes on the phone earlier this week with Chao, whose department oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, which administers the nation's flight safety regulations. And despite an effort within the FAA to weaken a requirement that copilots have the equivalent of 1,500 hours of flight experience before flying a passenger airplane, Collins' conversation with Chao left him thinking the rule won't be changed.
"Secretary Chao committed to keeping our skies safe and understands the importance of keeping the pilot training requirements in place," said Collins, a Clarence Republican. "She indicated that there are no plans within her department to change flight safety training standards at this time."
Collins said he spoke with Chao about the ongoing efforts of the Families of Continental Flight 3407 to preserve the aviation safety improvements they won in legislation passed by Congress in 2010.
Chao did say, however, that there is a pilot shortage in the United States, and that her department is working on an initiative to provide financial support for military veterans to be certified and trained as commercial pilots.
"I am supportive of this program because it will help veterans achieve the 1,500 hours needed, increasing the number of qualified individuals in the cockpit," Collins said. "The DOT is hopeful to have partnerships with accredited pilot schools by middle of 2018."