Flight 3407 families reach milestone in fight to improve airline safety


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It’s the latest milestone in the fight to improve airline safety following the crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence more than 12 years ago. A full accounting of pilot records is now required in an electronic database.

Since that fateful night in Clarence Center more than twelve years ago, the families of the 50 people who died in the crash of Colgan Flight 3407 have turned their tragedy into a crusade for airline safety. Their latest achievement, a government-mandated Pilot Records Database.

“And the skies are a lot safer today because of their tragedy, but because of their persistence,” said Rep. Brian Higgins.

Buffalo Congressman Brian Higgins was among the Western New York lawmakers who responded to the Flight 3407 families demanding changes in safety regulations in the wake of the tragedy in Clarence Center more than 12 years ago. Investigators found deficiencies in the flight records of the pilot and co-pilot in February 2009 and now the requirements are going to be tightened.

In Higgins’ opinion, they were not qualified to fly that plane.

“The families said from the very beginning they don’t blame the individual pilots, they blame the system that allowed them to fly the plane,” added Higgins.

Now, airlines will have to keep more extensive records of the pilots that fly for them and are required to file those records in the Pilot Records Database maintained by the FAA.

“If that information was known by the carrier, that pilot would have never been allowed in the cockpit. That is what the families fought for and this is the final piece and it is very, very significant,” said Higgins.

Why did it take 12 years to get this regulation on the books? Higgins says bureaucracy.

“For every action, there is a reaction and the airline industry, particularly the regional carriers, fought this and they fought it aggressively. But in the end, it was the families of Flight 3407 that prevailed here,” said Higgins.

Higgins told us, since the Flight 3407 tragedy, federal regulations have been changed to require more hours of flight training, and better training. A two-tiered training regimen has been abolished, and now all pilots are held to the same standards.

Al Vaughters is an award-winning investigative reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 1994. See more of his work here. To submit a Call 4 Action, click here.

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