FAA Gets Tough on Regional Airlines

From Regional Airlines to Air France, Safety Takes Center Stage

The regional pilot training announcement is one of several changes under way this week -- all intended to make flying safer.

Federal officials today began three days of hearings on January's "Miracle on the Hudson" landing in which Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger gracefully landed a U.S. Airways flight on the river after hitting birds. The hearings will address how to address bird strikes like the one that put that plane in danger.

Also today, Air France pilots were told by their union not to fly Airbus A330 jetliners until new speed sensors are installed. Faulty sensors may have played a role in the crash of Air France flight 447 last week.

Next Monday, representatives of the major airlines and their regional partners, along with industry groups and others invested in the airline business, will meet with LaHood and Babbit to discuss how to make flying safer.

"It's clear to us in looking at the February Colgan Air crash in Buffalo that there are things we should be doing now," Babbit said. "My goal is to make sure that the entire industry -- from large commercial carriers to smaller, regional operators -- is meeting our safety standard."

Buffalo Crash Reveals Problems at Regional Airlines

The jury is technically still out on the cause the Buffalo crash in February. The NTSB has already held hearings on the accident but has not yet issued a final report.

A total of 50 people died when the Colgan Air flight 3407 went down just short of the Buffalo airport.

The pilot of that flight, Capt. Marvin Renslow, had failed several flight checks when getting his pilot's license, but failed to disclose them all to Colgan Air on his application.

At the NTSB hearing, the airline's vice president of administration Mary Finnigan said the company followed standard industry practice in vetting new hires.

"I would not sign off on any pilot that I personally would not put my own family in the back of the aircraft, and I felt that we were doing the very best job that we could do," she said.

Colgan Air, a regional airline that operates commuter flights for Continental, US Airways and United, has made a number of changes since the accident. It is instituting a fatigue awareness program for its pilots and will put every pilot through a new program so they better understand and handle emergencies in the cockpit.

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