The Business Travel Coalition (BTC), and more than 30 corporations, unions and associations are urging Congress to conduct hearings on forming a national air transportation policy that optimizes safety, while minimizing cost in the aviation system, and provides opportunities for the creation of a financially viable airline industry.
In a Signatory Letter sent to relevant U.S. Senate and House committee leaders, the BTC urged action in the aftermath of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearings on the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo, NY that called into question policies of regional airlines.
The letter reads:
“The U.S. deregulated the airline industry in 1978 but in the aftermath of the intense Congressional debates about deregulation itself, has never had an inclusive, thoughtful public-policy debate about what ought to be the priorities of national policy with respect to air transportation. As a consequence, Congressional involvement in aviation policy has been somewhat limited to lurching from one crisis to the next, sometimes adding to a patchwork of disconnected policy prescriptions which fall far short of coherent aviation policy.
“Following the tragic crash at Buffalo, travelers, travel agents and corporate travel managers were taken aback by news reports that itemized much larger differences in pilot compensation and experience between regional and major airlines than most observers were aware of. Taken in conjunction with revelations regarding pilot training, fatiguing commutes and other safety-related items that arose during the NTSB hearings, and in subsequent news accounts, these facts have left many in both the public and Congress concerned about the regional airline business model.”
“Very importantly, no matter the area of aviation – crew training & experience – aircraft maintenance – air traffic control – travelers should accept nothing less than a single and high regulatory standard and a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) willing to do its enforcement job.”
“We believe that the public has the right to expect that whether the aircraft is a Dash 8 approaching Buffalo in icy conditions or an Airbus 320 without power over the Hudson, it will be operated by reasonably paid, carefully trained, fully experienced and career-oriented pilots with the necessary resources of experience and intellect to make full use of the sophisticated technologies available to them.”
Hourly wages for a regional pilot start at $12.50 per hour, according to Avjobs.com. The co-pilot of the Cogan Air regional aircraft that crashed in Buffalo made $23 an hour, according to reports. That compares with an average hourly wage for New York City cab drivers of $17, and $20 for Atlanta bus drivers. However, these cab and bus drivers are not commuting across multiple time zones only to land from a “red eye” flight and operate their vehicles,” the BTC said.
“We urge Congress to initiate the long-overdue process of developing a coherent national air transportation policy that ensures the safety and security of the flying public and protects and strengthens this national infrastructure so vital to our economy and way of life,” the BTC said.
The BTC urged other groups to sign on to the petition at http://surveymonkey.twi.bz/b.