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Flight 3407 family member says latest air disaster is 'very upsetting'

WBFO News file photo

The details unfolding in the latest air disaster are all too familiar for the families of Continental Connection Flight 3407, which crashed in Clarence in 2009.

A South Korean jetliner crashed as it approached the runway at the San Francisco International Airport Saturday, killing two and injured 180 people. Federal investigators are looking at the possibility of pilot error.

While it is too soon for an exact cause, Karen Eckert of Williamsville, who lost her sister Beverly Eckert in Flight 3407, said the fight for pilot safety rule changes continues in Washington.

"The first time you hear pilot error my mind went rushing to all the things we did, but I think it is early in this investigation. We really have to let the NTSB do its job," said Eckert.  "If it is, everything that we have been fighting for is too reduce that  human element of pilot error in a crash."

Pilot fatigue rules were completed and Eckert says now they are close to a final rule for raising pilot qualifications.  That is expected to be announced August 1.

Eckert tells WBFO News it was "gut wrenching" and "very upsetting" to watch the coverage of this latest air disaster.

"What we have been fighting for is too improve the safety in the cockpit so incidents like this don't happen," said Eckert.

New York's senators and Western New York's congressional delegation says the crash makes it absolutely clear, the Federal Aviation Administration must put new pilot safety rules into place.

WBFO'S Mike Desmond reports on Congressman Higgin's response to this latest air tragedy.

Lawmakers say it's time for the FAA to get the rules in place to ensure well-trained pilots are in the cockpit.

Speaking at Buffalo Niagara International Airport Monday, Western New York Congressman Brian Higgins says the California crash has many of the same elements of poorly-trained pilots as the cockpit crew in Flight 3407.

“We are urging the FAA to work with expediency to finalize what has been a long, bureaucratic process of rule implementation prompted by the lessons we learned after the crash of Flight 3407,” said Congressman Higgins. “More than four years have passed since that tragic day and yet the wait continues for changes which will save lives.”

Higgins says lobbyists have succeeded in stalling the new rules because the airlines don't want them. He points out the NTSB report cited errors by poorly-trained pilots not knowing how to handle an emergency in the Flight 3407 crash and the early evidence is that the pilot in the San Francisco crash had little flight time in the 777 and handled his first landing in that city the wrong way.

Other lawmakers also weighed in on the need for changes for air safety.

“The life-saving measures that Congress enacted in the Airline Safety Act were designed to prevent tragedies similar to Flight 3407, and the yet recent crashes in San Francisco and Alaska are tragic reminders that there is more work to do to accomplish one level of safety,” Senator Gillibrand said. “These are preventable disasters, and there must not be any further delay in action to implement these critical safety improvements.”

The New York lawmakers wrote a letter to Honorable Michael P. Huerta, Administrator of the FAA:

The Honorable Michael P. Huerta                     Administrator                                                                  Federal Aviation Administration                                     800 Independence Avenue, SW                         Washington, DC 20591

Dear Administrator Huerta,

While still under investigation, the tragic crash of Asiana Airlines Flight 214 at San Francisco International Airport is an urgent reminder that flight safety and pilot training rules and regulations protect lives.

Following the crash of Continental Flight 3407 in Clarence Center, NY in 2009, the Western New York congressional delegation worked with the families of the victims to pass legislation to implement several recommendations of the National Transportation Safety Board to increase commercial aviation safety.

As you know, the deadlines for several of these congressionally-mandated aviation safety reforms will occur in August and October of this year. These include important reforms to crew member screening, qualifications and training, including special training in stall recognition and recovery. We understand you pledged to the Families of Continental Flight 3407 that these deadlines would be met, and believe it is critically important that they are.

The Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 (PL 111-216), which mandated these reforms, was passed unanimously by the House of Representatives and the Senate three years ago. The intent of Congress is clear and there is no excuse for further delay. We urge you in the strongest possible terms to complete these reforms and give the travelling public the level of safety they deserve.

We look forward to hearing from you soon.


Brian Higgins, Member of Congress (NY-26)

Louise Slaughter, Member of Congress (NY-28)

Tom Reed, Member of Congress (NY-23)

Charles Schumer, US Senator (NY)

Kirsten Gillibrand, US Senator (NY)

“The sooner we get these rules on the books, the better—that’s why we’re keeping our foot on the gas until these crucial new airline safety standards for pilot training are in place,” said Senator Schumer. “The tragedy and lessons of Flight 3407 must make air travel safer, and we are urging that the FAA  keep its word and get these regulations finalized on schedule.”

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.