July 27, 2023
Fighting for WNY and Honoring the Families of Flight 3407 in Congress
By Rep. Nick Langworthy
Last week, Congress passed H.R. 3935, the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act, which would authorize and amend programs administered by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) for fiscal years 2024 through 2028.
Through this process, I was able to pass one of my biggest legislative priorities for Western New York so far — my amendment to maintain the 1,500-hour in-air training requirement for pilots — with the hard work of Reps. Brian Higgins and Claudia Tenney. The current training requirement was put in place by Congress after the tragic crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 in Clarence.
As a Congressional staffer at the time, I was there at the crash site that night, and attended the funerals of the victims. Witnessing firsthand the unimaginable grief endured by the families as they grappled with the loss of their loved ones, and knowing that the crash resulted from pilot error instilled in me an unwavering determination to make our skies safer for all.
Due to the families of Flight 3407, who tirelessly fought for enhanced safety standards, Congress implemented regulations mandating pilots to obtain a minimum of 1,500 hours of training in-flight. In the years since its implementation, this training requirement has proven to be a resounding success. Our skies have become the safest they’ve ever been, safeguarding countless passengers and crews from avoidable mishaps.
Despite these remarkable strides, the proposed legislation brought forth by my colleagues posed a concerning risk. It sought to cut the inflight training hours and allow pilots to qualify for their licenses by spending 250 of the 1,500 hours in a flight simulator. My bipartisan amendment protects the integrity of the 1,500-hour flight training requirement in the face of these efforts to lower pilot training standards and jeopardize the safety of passengers and crew alike.
The voices of experienced aviators, including Captain Sully Sullenberger, renowned for his heroic “Miracle on the Hudson” landing, echoed our concerns. He agreed that while simulators play a valuable role in training seasoned pilots, they cannot replace the invaluable experience gained through in-the-sky training.
Our bipartisan amendment found overwhelming support in the House, securing a vote of 241 to 191. Beyond this, the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act holds immense promise for the future of aviation in the United States. This bill will improve the efficiency and operations of the FAA, foster growth in the aviation workforce that supports 11 million jobs, invest in critical airport infrastructure, and uphold America’s esteemed gold standard in safety.
Furthermore, it aims to encourage innovation, with the potential to enhance the passenger experience for the over 850 million individuals who fly annually. The passage of this legislation signifies a watershed moment for the aviation industry, marking the dawning of an era characterized by heightened safety, efficiency, and progress.
In conclusion, H.R. 3935 and our amendment stand as a testament to the power of bipartisan collaboration in advancing critical legislative priorities. Preserving the 1,500-hour in-air training requirement for pilots not only honors the memories of those lost in the Flight 3407 tragedy but also maintains the safety and security of millions of domestic airline passengers. As we navigate the ever-changing landscape of aviation, we must be guided by the principles of unwavering commitment to safety, fostering innovation, and driving progress to create a future in which our skies are even safer, and our aviation industry thrives.