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Editorial: Opponents of new airline safety rules refuse to give up efforts to weaken law

Any attempt by the White House and Congress to roll back hard-earned regulations protecting the flying public must be rejected, with the region’s congressional delegation leading the way.

The Families of Flight 3407, whose loved ones perished in the Feb. 12, 2009, crash of an airliner in Clarence Center, have since devoted themselves to the cause of making air travel safer.
Important changes have been pushed through thanks to the relentless efforts of the group and of key legislators, in particular Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y.

There has been fear that a Republican administration and Congress bent on rolling back regulations might soften the safety requirements put in place after the crash.

So it was good to hear Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, whose early backing of Donald J. Trump propelled him into the national political spotlight, reiterating his dedication to the group’s cause.
“I am proud to stand with the families in their quest for safer skies,” he said, “and I remain committed to doing whatever is necessary to make that happen.”

His influence will help ensure that Congress does not give in to airline industry claims that the new rules are onerous and costly.

No one should forget that 50 people, including one man on the ground, died. Federal investigators blamed the crash on pilot error. Better training and more experience by the flight crew might have prevented the crash.

Some 20 family members recently returned to Washington to meet with Schumer and fellow New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand before going to a session Collins arranged with the new leaders of the House Aviation Subcommittee.

Among the aviation safety measures under threat by the airline lobby is the requirement that pilots have 1,500 hours of flight experience before being hired at a commercial airline. Gillibrand was quoted in The News saying that the regional airlines are “trying to unwind that.” She and Schumer say that the airlines want to repeal this provision, claiming it is responsible for a pilot shortage.

The family members were reassured about the 1,500-hour rule after the new chairman of the House Aviation Subcommittee, Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., said that changing the aviation safety rules “wasn’t part of his agenda.”

Kevin Kuwik, one of the leading members of the family group, said they had a positive meeting with Reps. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo; Tom Reed, R-Corning; and Louise M. Slaughter, D-Fairport.

John Kausner, another leader of the family group, said, “We cannot thank the Western New York House delegation enough for its steadfast support of our cause over the past eight years.”

Still, two of the regulations in the law that the group fought for have still not been implemented: establishment of a pilot records database and new pilot professionalism standards.

Schumer said that lawmakers opposed to the regulations could try to tie their effort to a Federal Aviation Administration funding bill. Legislation authorizing funding for the FAA must be passed by September, and lawmakers could use it to water down the safety rules.

This fight has been going on for nearly eight years, and shows no signs of being over. Schumer, Gillibrand, Collins, Reed, Higgins and Families of Flight 3407 must remain alert against a potentially disastrous retreat from regulations designed to protect the public.

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