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Editorial: The cost of flight safety

By now, most of us know about the unflagging dedication exhibited by the Families of Flight 3407. But many may not have realized the dollars and cents cost these selfless people have given from their own wallets to travel back and forth to Washington, D.C., in order to make flying safer.

Not one life has been lost in a plane crash in America since the Families of Continental Flight 3407 won passage of landmark aviation safety legislation in 2010. Because of the family members who set aside their own grief, airline passengers can board flights without having to worry whether their pilot has adequate training.

This volunteer work has come at a financial cost. Scott Maurer is part of a core of five Flight 3407 family and has traveled to Washington more than 100 times to lobby for aviation safety. As News Washington bureau Chief Jerry Zremski reported, each of the five has spent more than $100,000 from their own accounts to make these trips.

Others have spent far less, in one case $10,000 over the years, and do so out of dedication to loved ones lost on Feb. 12, 2009, in Clarence. Fifty people died that night.

The trip to Washington has special significance around the Feb. 12 crash anniversary. This year, more than 20 people from New York and eight other states traveled to the nation’s capital to visit senators and representatives.

The most meeting recent with Ali Bahrami, the associate administrator for aviation safety, and other officials at the Federal Aviation Administration left the group feeling heard. That’s important. One of the more useful – and controversial – parts of the law requires copilots to have 1,500 hours of flight experience before joining a commercial airline. The airline industry and its advocates in Congress claim the requirement is onerous. They contend that it is contributing to an airline pilot shortage. The Flight 3407 group has it right when they say safety should be the overriding concern.

Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican and chairman of the Senate committee that oversees aviation, has been particularly egregious in his efforts to undermine this law. He has tried to insert changes to the 1,500-hour rule.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, has supported the group since the beginning. He has blocked Thune’s attempts every time and, all flyers have to hope, will continue to do so.

The group has had staunch support from the local delegation. The news conference included Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, who was Erie County executive at the time of the crash. Also in attendance were Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport, and Tom Reed, R-Corning.

The family members continue to give of their time and resources for safety. The public owes them a debt of gratitude. The law should never be weakened.

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