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National Pilot Records Database begins operation, more than a decade after Flight 3407 crash

New York State Troopers assess the aftermath of the crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence.
File Photo
New York State Troopers assess the aftermath of the crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence.

When Flight 3407 crashed Feb. 12, 2009 in Clarence Center, there were major issues with the pilot and co-pilot and no centralized place to check their records. There is now, but it has taken since 2010 to slog through the Washington process to get the Pilot Records Database into operation.

Rep. Brian Higgins(D-Buffalo) pushed for years to get the database into law and into operation, along with former Rep. Chris Collins (R-Clarence), who lived near where the plane came down, killing 50 people.

A brown and white plaque with photos of "Loved Ones Lost" in the crash of Flight 3407.
Chris Caya
A civic memorial to the disaster was rededicated in 2019.

The National Transportation Safety Board investigation raised questions about whether either member of the flight crew should have been on the flight deck and that there were nearly two separate safety systems for big airlines and small airlines, like Colgan, which operated the crashed plane.

Higgins said the bureaucracy didn't act as quickly as it should have.

"Congress took action on this, relatively soon, but by the time you get to the rulemaking, by the time you get to the for-and-against within the bureaucracy, it took this long," Higgins said. "But we will have accountability. We will have transparency. And this is an important piece, making the flying public much safer."

Higgins praised the survivors of the crash victims who spent years fighting to get safer flying, first in the law and then fighting lobbyists to get the database and new regulations in place They never blamed the crew.

"They blamed the system that allowed unqualified pilots to fly a plane," Higgins said, "and that's not going to happen anymore, because of the great courage and persistence of the survivors, the families of the 3407 folks that, unfortunately, perished that evening."

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.