Buffalo Crash Hearing: Are You Safe on Commuter Planes?

Lorilei Valeri's father died in December 1993 when a commuter plane crashed in Hibbing, Minn. Sixteen years later, as a federal hearing examining February's plane crash near Buffalo, N.Y., wraps up, Valeri says nothing has changed when it comes to keeping commuters safe.

"I definitely had hoped that no other family would ever have to experience that," Valeri told ABC News on Thursday.

"Nothing has changed," she added. "Ultimately, the safety of airlines has to do with money."

VIDEO: Regional Airlines Under Scrutiny

Others have also said a bad economy means pilots may not be getting all the training they need -- especially at regional airlines.

Watch "World News with Charles Gibson" TONIGHT at 6:30 p.m. ET for the full report.

"Because of the cost constraints on these carriers and the need to feed the larger network carriers, we're seeing training being pushed down," Capt. Paul Rice, first vice president of the Airline Pilot's Association, told members of the National Transportation Safety Board this week. "More and more training is being cut because of the cost."

"They may not have budgeted a lot of money for additional training, which might be necessary for pilots with lower experience," aviation consultant Kit Darby said today.

Regional and commuter planes are often perceived as the farm teams where pilots and crew members gain experience before working on larger commercial jets. The regional airline industry has doubled in size in the last 14 years. Now, nearly a quarter of all passengers flying on any given day in the United States are flying a regional carrier.

But today some say training requirements for those planes need a boost to ensure passengers stay safe. In the past seven years, more than 150 people have lost their lives in regional airline accidents in the United States compared to just one in a major carrier.

Were you trained at a pilot academy? If so, ABC News would like to hear from you.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who met with the families of those who died in Buffalo earlier this week, sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood this morning calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to immediately rethink what is required of new pilots before they take to the skies.

"I believe that FAA must start by reevaluating what it requires of airline training curricula," Schumer wrote. "NTSB's hearings have indicated that lack of hands-on training of a stick-pusher may have played a role in the crash of Flight 3407, and I wonder what other important training exercises may be left of out of curricula."

"In the interest of cost cutting, the commuter airlines seem to be overworking and underpaying their pilots," Schumer later told ABC News. "The training doesn't seem to be full and adequate."

Training Requirements for Regional and Commuter Airlines

After several commuter plane crashes in the early 1990s, rules took effect in 1997 that created more stringent requirements for commuter planes. They now have to follow the same rules as the major carriers.

"This is all one industry," Roger Cohen, president of the Regional Airline Association said today. "One level of safety. And that's something the industry is committed to 24-7."

Pilots can be on duty 16 hours per day, which includes time not spent flying, such as preparing the plane and monitoring weather reports. They can fly only eight hours in a 24-hour period.

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