Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, the airline pilot celebrated for his “Miracle on the Hudson” landing in 2009, has spoken out against a House Republican’s legislative amendment, describing it as a “giant step backwards” for aviation safety.
The amendment by Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania would complicate the Federal Aviation Administration’s efforts to draw up industry-wide standards to relieve pilot fatigue and to bolster pilot experience requirements. It would do so by requiring the agency to tailor regulations to different segments of the aviation industry rather than establish across-the-board safety standards.
Shuster’s proposal also would stiffen requirements for the agency to show that the costs the industry would bear to meet new safety regulations are justified.
Under legislation pushed into law last year by the families of people killed in an upstate New York plane crash, the FAA is developing industry-wide safety standards. The crash of Continental Flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y., in February 2009, which killed 50 people, has been blamed in part on pilot fatigue.
In an interview with The Buffalo News, Sullenberger said that Shuster’s amendment would create a “huge obstacle” by making all the new regulations subject to a complex set of analyses before they could be implemented. “It totally guts our striving for one level of safety,” he added.
Sullenberger landed a US Airways plane carrying 150 passengers on the Hudson River in January, 2009, after the jet struck a flock of birds, disabling both of its engines. He said that if he and his co-pilot had been fatigued on the day of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” they “could not have performed at the same level.”
Shuster maintains, PoliticsPA reports, that his amendment is in keeping with the goals of the Obama administration to make regulation more efficient.
A spokesman for Shuster added that the amendment would apply only to future FAA regulations and wouldn’t affect regulations the agency already is working on. But members of the Families of Continental Flight 3407 group scoffed at that.
“Our experience in Washington has taught us that you have to look at everything through the lens of the worst case scenario,” Kevin Kuwik, who lost his girlfriend in the crash, told the Associated Press.
A House vote on the amendment, as well as final action on other parts of the Republican-drafted bill governing FAA spending, is expected today. If the amendment is approved by the House, it likely would face tougher resistance in the Senate.