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Flight 3407 families outraged by delays on rules for pilot training

The Families of Continental Flight 3407 expressed their outrage Tuesday over what is likely to be years of delay in implementing the new pilot training rules they so desperately fought for.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently announced that it won't finalize those rules until Oct. 19, 2013, even though the aviation safety law the families group pushed through Congress two years ago called for the training rules to be done by Oct. 1, 2011.

What's more, the FAA said, implementing the rules will take an additional five years.

An FAA source attributed the delays to the huge volume of comments the agency received in the wake of proposing the new training rules last year, and to the difficulty stemming from implementing such sweeping changes at the nation's airlines.

But the Flight 3407 families weren't buying it.

" 'Unconscionable' is the word that comes to mind; my sister Beverly would be absolutely livid," said Karen Eckert, of Amherst, referring to her sister, 9/1 1 activist Beverly Eckert, who was among 50 people killed in the February 2009 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Clarence Center.

"It would be an absolute shame if history was allowed to repeat itself while waiting seven more years because of administrative red tape and delays like this, when the solutions are right there in front of us," Eckert added.

The delay, which the FAA announced in a recent Department of Transportation report, affects a series of profound changes in pilot training that the agency proposed in May 2011. Under the FAA proposal, for the first time, pilots would have to be trained to recover from the kind of stall that sent Flight 3407 plummeting into a house. Pilots would have to be familiar with the stall-recovery equipment, which the crew of Flight 3407 was not.

If they failed test flights -- as was the case with Flight 3407 Capt. Marvin D. Renslow -- pilots would have to receive remedial training.

And pilots would have to be trained to fly in weather conditions they are likely to experience in their jobs and receive simulator training on sudden emergency "upsets" and be required to recover from them.

The FAA source said the changes are both broad and complex, leaving the agency needing extra time to review the hundreds of comments it received about the new rules.

In addition, the rules will take time to implement once finalized, in part because the FAA is also working with the airline industry to develop standards for the use of flight simulators in stall-recovery training, the agency source said.

"The FAA continues to work on a final rule to update the commercial pilot training requirements," the agency said in a statement. "At the same time, the FAA is also aggressively working on additional efforts with the airlines to improve stall and upset recovery training requirements in advance of the rule-making."

But to the Flight 3407 families, the delays were one more sign that the airline industry is getting in the way of safety.

"Once again, we are reminded that we can never relax, and that we must read the fine print in each and every one of these monthly government reports, or else these lobbyists are going to run circles around us," said Scott Maurer, of Moore, S.C., whose daughter, Lorin, was killed in the crash.