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Flight 3407 families are stepping up once again to refight their long battle

It is hard to believe that another attempt is underway to weaken new aviation safety rules that require more pilot training. In response, the Families of Continental Flight 3407 and a bipartisan group of elected officials are preparing to make their case, again.

As reported in The News, Congress is considering sweeping legislation covering many aspects of aviation. The fear is that it could be a vehicle to devastate the flight safety improvements the Flight 3407 families won in a law passed in 2010. These selfless families have waged a long and courageous battle and they will keep pressing on as long as it takes, for which the flying public should be grateful.

On the other side are the airline industry and members of Congress apparently willing to place the bottom line above safety. Airlines say the new standard is unnecessary and makes it impossible to find pilots with the necessary flight experience. Poor pilot training contributed to the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 seven years ago in Clarence and to other aviation disasters since then. Rolling back safety standards is unacceptable.

The families traveled to Washington this week because Rep. William F. Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is introducing legislation to reauthorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.

The families have serious concerns that the airline industry will try to use the bill to weaken a provision that requires commercial pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight experience before they are hired.

Congress passed those safety improvements following a federal investigation that found the pilots of Flight 3407 mishandled the controls. Since that tragedy, the families have worked tirelessly for the pilot training rule, in addition to safety changes.

Safety advocates have received considerable aid from Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y. Schumer, Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Western New York’s four House members, two Democrats and two Republicans, met with the families to launch their advocacy efforts around this reauthorization bill.

They were joined by “Miracle on the Hudson” first officer and aviation safety expert Jeff Skiles, who warned that if the number of flight hours is cut, so, too, will requirements that pilots learn to fly at night, cross-country and in poor weather conditions. His sobering point ought to carry weight as Congress considers attempts to water down the new rules.

Schumer, the key senator behind the aviation safety law, set the tone: “Any airline, if you try to weaken our work, we’re going to fight you, and we’re going to win.”