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In the News Safer Skies?

August 2, 2010

VIEW: Chapter 3 -- an inside look at the life of a regional pilot -- from our February 2010 film Flying Cheap. The clip documents how many pilots live between flights -- in cramped apartments called "crash pads" -- and explores the pressures they face from airlines whose main goal is to "move the rig."

This lifestyle -- long hours, little sleep, and minimal training -- is one that may soon change. On Sunday, President Obama signed the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, a bill that addresses some of the factors that played a role in the February 2009 crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 in Buffalo, a code share operated by the regional airline Colgan Air. Flying Cheap investigated the causes of the crash, which was later ruled to be pilot error by the National Transportation Safety Board [NTSB].

Here are some of the changes spelled out by the new legislation:
-- Pilots must have 1,500 hours of flight hours before being hired to fly at passenger arilines -- up from a 250 hour minimum.
-- A database to track pilot records will be set up and available to all airlines -- the captain of Flight 3407 had failed several flight tests, but this was reportedly unknown to Colgan.
-- Airlines will be required to submit fatigue management plans to the FAA.
-- The FAA will research and report on best practices with regard to flight crewmember pairing, crew resource management techniques, and pilot commuting.
-- Airlines will be required to disclose the name of the carrier providing service at each leg of a flight before a ticket can be sold.

For some background on the regional airline industry, take a look at Flying Cheap's robust Web site, which includes a map that tracks the safety records of airlines flying out of major U.S. hubs, more information on code-share agreements, interviews with experts, industry representatives and pilots, and the stories of the Flight 3407 families who have long fought for this new legislation.

Also, stay tuned for an investigation into the rapid growth of contract maintenance in the airline industry. If you work in the MRO industry and would like to share your experience and insights, please contact us at MRO@frontline.org.

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