Majority Statement by Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV

Mar 20 2012

Commercial Airline Safety Oversight

Majority Statement 

Chairman John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IVU.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Safety has always been the principal goal of the aviation community, and my primary focus since I joined the Commerce Committee more than 20 years ago.  Every member of the aviation community begins their workday focused first and foremost on safety.  For commercial airline and federal employees—from the pilots, flight attendants and the air traffic controllers, to the mechanics and the technicians, safety is paramount throughout their daily work.  And this emphasis has paid off—the last U.S. fatal passenger accident was February 12, 2009.  The past few years have been the safest in the history of the U.S. aviation industry.  The reason we have been successful is that we are constantly striving to make even the smallest safety improvements.  It is a continual effort, and that is why we are here today.

Just over three years ago, the tragic accident of Colgan Flight 3407 occurred outside of Buffalo, New York.  It took the lives of 50 people, and devastated the families and friends of the victims.  The investigation of Flight 3407 revealed serious safety lapses in the national air transportation system.  Some of these issues were all too clear in hindsight.  Pilot flight and duty time regulations had not been updated in decades, despite previous efforts to address obvious weaknesses.  Other issues have developed as a result of fundamental changes in technology.  The development of training requirements years ago could not account for procedures to operate “stick pushers” because they did not exist—it is still a relatively new feature and only exists on a few types of aircraft.

To address the multiple safety concerns that were highlighted in Congressional hearings, Congress passed the “Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010.”  It included provisions to improve pilot training, implement Safety Management Systems (SMS), update pilot flight and duty time regulations, and promote better reporting of safety issues.

Read the entire statement here