WASHINGTON - Members of Congress said yesterday that they would try to force regional airlines to fix problems with pilot training and fatigue highlighted by an inquiry into a crash near Buffalo in February.
Rep. Jerry Costello, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee's aviation subcommittee, said at a hearing yesterday that he was fed up with waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration and the airline industry to act on safety recommendations. He said he would try to force action through legislation.
"I do not believe we can rely on airlines to voluntarily comply with industry best practices," the Illinois Democrat said.
Rep. John Mica (R., Fla.) said he supported Costello's call for legislation.
"There is something wrong when we have commuter planes falling out of the sky," said Mica, senior Republican on the transportation committee.
The Feb. 12 crash of Continental Express Flight 3407 near Buffalo has turned a spotlight on safety at regional airlines, which often hire pilots with significantly less experience and pay them lower salaries than major airlines pay their pilots.
Regional airlines have been involved in the last six fatal airline accidents in the United States. Pilot performance has been a factor in three of those accidents.
A National Transportation Safety Board investigation exposed a series of critical errors by Flight 3407's captain, Marvin Renslow, and copilot Rebecca Shaw that preceded the crash.
Their Bombardier Dash 8-Q400, a twin-engine turboprop, experienced an aerodynamic stall before plunging to the ground, killing all 49 aboard and one man in a house below.
Shaw, who was paid $23,900 a year, commuted overnight from near Seattle, where she lived with her parents, to report to work at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey on the day of the flight.
It is not clear how much sleep she and Renslow - who lived near Tampa, Fla., and earned about $65,000 a year - had the night before, but they may have tried to nap in an airport crew lounge.
Dan Morgan, Colgan's vice president for safety, said Colgan's salaries were typical for regional airlines. He said Colgan had taken several steps to improve safety, including offering new guidance to pilots on fatigue and creating a remedial training program.