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FAA rolling the dice; New delays on pilot training rules getting in the way of airline safety

The Families of Continental Flight 3407 have every right to be outraged over what will likely amount to years of delay in implementing the new pilot training rules they championed.

The families took on bureaucracy and airline lobbyists by unselfishly mounting an attack against inertia, all in order to set new standards that could save countless lives. Now they face more delay. The Federal Aviation Administration inexplicably has announced that it won't finalize those rules until Oct. 19, 2013. And the agency is saying implementing the rules will take an additional five years.

This is unconscionable.

The aviation safety law the group helped push through Congress two years ago called for the training rules to be completed by Oct. 1, 2011.

The FAA attributes the delay to the huge volume of comments it has received. Presumably many of those comments are from industry officials and lobbyists who would rather bend back their own thumbs than see any meaningful change in safety rules. Meanwhile, the nation's passengers are kept wondering if the pilots of the plane they're about to board have the right training.

The FAA seems to be trying to forget about the tragic crash in February 2009. Continental Connection Flight 3407 went down in Clarence Center, killing 50. The investigation revealed that those lives might have been spared had the pilot training rules pushed by the families been in effect.

The delay affects the major improvements in pilot training that the agency proposed in May 2011 to correct the deficiencies that sent Flight 3407 plummeting into a house. Under those rules, for the first time pilots would have to be trained to recover from the kind of stall that doomed Flight 3407. Pilots who fail test flights, as did Flight 3407 Capt. Marvin D. Renslow, would have to receive remedial training. And, obviously important in this area, 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."

To go slow on implementing these rules amounts to gambling with the lives of air travelers. Let's hope the public doesn't lose again.

Meantime, the families have had to wage another fight. This time it is to win approval from a bankruptcy court judge to allow their wrongful death lawsuits to move forward despite the bankruptcy of Pinnacle Airlines. Pinnacle's subsidiary, Colgan Air, operated the Continental Connection plane.

The families want the mandatory stay on outstanding lawsuits to be lifted because Pinnacle's insurer and not Pinnacle is likely to be found liable for their legal claims. Pinnacle all but agreed with that assessment, but did not comment on the request to lift the stay.

These families, after working for three years to push through legislation that benefits the public, are now being kept waiting even longer in their effort to receive compensation. And for those who lost breadwinners, the wait is even more unbearable.

The Families of Continental Flight 3407 have endured much and have worked through their own pain for the benefit of others, only to see continued delay, first in the implementation of needed legislation and now having to take on the court system so that they can pursue compensation from an insurer.

Both situations need to be resolved.