Lawmakers hoped to step in but legislation to reduce pilot fatigue, require more flight training and experience -- 1,500 hours of flying instead of 250 hours for new hires -- is stuck on Capitol Hill. It has passed the House but has seen no action in the Senate, which has been consumed with health care legislation.
"It's tremendously frustrating," Rice said of the stalled legislation. The bill "talked about new requirements not only about hiring pilots, but also for licensing requirements, educational requirements, a whole broad range of things."
Regional airlines have improved in terms of training pilots in simulator aircraft, thanks to a push by the Regional Airlines Association, but finances remain a key issue, Nance said.
"One of the reasons why we've got such a growth in regional carriers, which have done a tremendous job overall in improving over the last 20 years ... but the problem here is that they are always running on the edge of economic disaster because they are the ones that the big carriers turn to to try and save money," he said.
As is the case with many Colgan Air routes, Flight 3407 was operating as Continental Connection as part of a codeshare agreement with Continental Airlines.
The FAA is moving forward with tougher safety standards and what many say are long-overdue rules to reduce pilot fatigue but those new regulations could take years to implement.
"Things do take time," pilot Rice said. "Nothing is going to happen overnight here. But the good news is, things are happening. A year ago -- two years ago -- none of this was happening."
The FAA has also pushed airlines to improve remedial training for pilots who are not performing well enough in the cockpit. And it has encouraged airlines to adopt rules that allow their pilots to report safety problems voluntarily, without fear of reprisal.
But for those who lost their loved ones in the Colgan Air crash, change is not happening soon enough.
"People are at risk. A lot of people are at risk," Maurer said. "We need to be taking actions much quicker and much sooner."
Colgan Air says it has made 20 safety improvements, including enhancing training, requiring new pilots to have more experience, improving the pilot background check process and increasing the frequency of check rides by veteran pilots.
"Since the accident, we have examined every aspect of our operations to make sure that everything that could be done is being done," Colgan Air's parent company, Pinnacle Airlines Corp., said in a statement. "As a result, we have taken more than 20 important and specific steps to further enhance our operations."
As for whether travelers can feel safer in commuter airlines, Nance said, it's really a question of the circumstances, and the weather.
"When the weather's good it's excellent," he said. "When the weather is bad and we've got all sort of problems, we come up against the question of whether or not these folks have enough training and whether the training has been imposed correctly and their fatigue factors."