H.R. 3371: Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009

H.R. 3371

Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009

Date
October 14, 2009 (111th Congress, 1st Session)

Staff Contact
Communications

Floor Situation

The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 3371 on Wednesday, October 14, 2009, under suspension of the rules, requiring a two-thirds majority vote for passage. H.R. 3371 was introduced on July 29, 2009, by Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) and referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, which held a mark-up and reported the bill, by voice vote, on July 30, 2009.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3371 would place several new regulations, restrictions, and safety requirements on commercial aviation transportation.  The new regulatory standards would be carried out by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), with the support of other federal agencies.  According to CBO, the new restrictions and requirements impose both intergovernmental and private sector mandates on entities that employ pilots and sell airline tickets.  However, CBO cannot estimate whether those mandates will exceed the threshold established by the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act (UMRA), which is currently $69 million for intergovernmental mandates and $139 million for private sector mandates.  The following is a summary of the bill's main provisions: 

Air Carrier Safety and Pilot Training Task Force:  Establishes a special task force to be known as the "FAA Task Force on Air Carrier Safety and Pilot Training" to make recommendations on the best practices for air carrier responsibilities, flight crew professional standards, flight crew training, and information sharing between air carriers.  The Task Force would be required to issue a report within 180 days of enactment and would be terminated at the end of FY 2012.

Stall Training:  Requires the FAA to issue final rules within two years of enactment that require air carriers to receive training on stall recovery.  The rules must also require remedial training for pilots that show deficiencies during training.

Recommendations:  Requires the Secretary of Transportation to submit annual reports to Congress and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) on any safety recommendations that have been developed and not yet adopted.  The reports must include plans to adopt the new regulations.

Pilot Records Database:  Establishes the FAA Pilot Records Database and requires that air carriers submit each pilot's records to the database.  Pilot's would be able to view their records after making a written request and would be allowed to submit public comments to correct inaccuracies.  Air carriers would be authorized to use the database to learn information about the qualifications of potential employees.  The bill would require the FAA Administrator to establish rules and requirements for establishing the database, gathering information, releasing records to air carriers, and protecting the privacy of the pilots.  No legal action could come against an air carrier for refusing to hire a pilot based on information from the database.

Training Programs:  Requires the FAA to issue final rules regarding training for flight crewmembers and aircraft dispatchers within 14 months of enactment.  The bill would establish a panel to meet within 60 days of enactment to make rulemaking recommendations.

Safety Inspectors and Research Analysts:  Requires the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation to conduct a review of aviation safety inspectors and operational research analysts of the FAA.

Mentoring, Development, and Leadership:  Requires the FAA to make rules to establish flight crew mentoring programs that pair experienced crewmembers with newly employed crewmembers.  The FAA would be required to establish final rules for the program within two years.

Crew Screening and Qualifications:  Requires the FAA to establish new guidelines for ensuring that air carriers develop and implement means for ensuring that flight crewmembers have proper qualifications and experience.  The bill would require that, within three years of enactment, all commercial pilots have an Airline Transport Pilot License (which requires at least 1,500 flight hours) and multi-engine aircraft flight experience.

Flight Education and Pilot Academic Training:  Requires the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a comprehensive study of flight schools, flight education, and academic training requirements for certification of an individual as a pilot and report the findings within 120 days of enactment.

Voluntary Safety Programs:  Requires the FAA to conduct a study on the aviation safety action program, the flight operational quality assurance program, the line operations safety audit, and the advanced qualification program and report the findings to Congress within 180 days of enactment.

ASAP and FOQA Implementation Plan:  Requires the FAA to implement and develop an Aviation Safety Action Program (ASAP) and a Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) program within one year of enactment.

Safety Management Systems:  Requires the FAA to make rules to implement a safety management system that includes an aviation safety action program, a flight operational quality assurance program, a line operations safety audit, and an advanced qualification program within two years of enactment.

Air Carrier Disclosure:  Requires all air carriers or anyone selling air transportation tickets to disclose the air carrier providing transportation on each flight segment sold with the ticket.  Sellers would have to clearly provide the information prior to the sale of the ticket.

Pilot Fatigue:  Requires the FAA to make new regulations to specify limitations on the flight hours and duty time allowed for pilots to address problems relating to pilot fatigue.  The bill would also require air carriers to develop and implement fatigue risk management plans.  An air carrier in violation of the final regulations could be subject to civil penalties.  The FAA and the National Academy of Sciences would be required to conduct a study on the effects of commuting on pilot fatigue within six months of enactment.

Crewmember Pairing:  Requires the FAA to conduct a study on aviation industry best practices with regard to flight crewmember pairing and crew resource management techniques within one year of enactment.

Background

According to House Report 111-284, the last six fatal commercial air crashes have involved regional air carriers, including the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 on approach to the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport on February 12, 2009. While the National Transportation Safety Board has not made a final determination regarding the cause of Flight 3407, the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure notes that the main focuses of the investigation remain flight crew experience and training, remedial training programs, commuting policies and practices, fatigue management, etc. In June, 2009, the Aviation Subcommittee held a hearing on "Regional Air Carriers and Pilot Workforce Issues." As a result of the hearing, the subcommittee determined that the FAA needed to closely examine its current regulations regarding "pilot training and flight and duty time limits, FAA oversight of regional air carriers, access to pilot records for hiring, and airline commuting policies and procedures." H.R. 3371 is an attempt to improve these aviation safety areas by requiring the FAA to make several new rules, restrictions, and regulations on pilots addressing these issues for commercial flights.

According to CBO, the legislation would create new private sector mandates on certain commercial carriers as well as sellers of airline tickets. CBO is unable to determine the cost of these mandates because the legislation leaves a so much of the rule making authority to the FAA. According to CBO, "Because the cost of complying with some of those mandates would depend on future regulations, CBO cannot determine whether the aggregate cost to comply with the private-sector mandates in the bill would exceed the annual threshold established in UMRA." Among other things, the bill requires air carriers to further train pilots on handling stalls and other emergencies, hire only pilots with certain training, establish a new mentoring program, develop a new safety management system, create a fatigue risk management plan, conduct new pre-employment screening, and maintain and share an employee database. While CBO says that many of these standards are already being met, the unknown cost of implementing the FAA's new regulations could be passed on to consumers in the form of higher airline costs.

 

Cost

According to CBO, H.R. 3371 would cost $15 million over the FY 2010-2014 period to implement new requirements in the legislation. In addition, CBO estimates that the bill could increase revenues because of new civil penalties but states that "any such amounts would be negligible."