WASHINGTON – Lobbying by the Air Line Pilots Association and families of victims of a Buffalo-area air crash, plus opposition from the New York congressional delegation and the Obama administration, grounded a GOP anti-federal-rules, anti-safety provision tucked into legislation renewing the Federal Aviation Administration.

Right-wing Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., crafter of the scheme, explained he dropped his measure – which the Democratic-run Senate also opposed – to get the FAA bill through. The language he used in his withdrawal statement directly quoted Air Line Pilots Association’s campaign slogan against his move.

“Thanks to the efforts of thousands of ALPA members responding to” the union’s “call to action and grassroots campaign, Shuster has withdrawn his amendment regarding the FAA regulatory process that would have interfered with needed updates to flight-time/duty-time regulations,” the pilots union said in a statement on May 21.

“In recent weeks, Shuster has come under enormous pressure to stand down on this issue, and the voice of ALPA pilots made a tremendous difference.  In his statement, Shuster referenced ALPA’s ‘One Level of Safety’ motto and urged Congress to swiftly approve necessary FAA reauthorization legislation.”

Shuster snuck language into the FAA bill requiring analysis on how proposed FAA safety rules would affect the economy and private markets. The practical effect, the union said, would be to ground the FAA’s planned rule for longer rest periods between flights for pilots and air crews. 

That’s a major issue not only for ALPA, but for relatives of the 50 people killed by the crash of Continental Flight 3407 outside Buffalo just over two years ago. A small regional carrier ran the plane and safety officials found the carrier forced its underpaid pilots to fly on little rest.  Pilot fatigue was cited as one key reason for the crash.

The FAA itself and the National Transportation Safety Board also opposed Shuster’s move, as did the families, who met with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on May 9 when Boehner came to campaign for a New York GOP congressional candidate. As minority leader in prior years, Boehner voted for Shuster’s anti-rules move. The families, in a closed-door meeting, told him about the harm it would cause. 

Shuster’s amendment, and its impact on pilots, also drew opposition from Capt. C.B. “Sully” Sullenberger, the pilot who achieved worldwide fame two years ago for landing his crippled US Airways plane in the Hudson River without losing a single passenger, while avoiding crashing into Manhattan.  Sullenberger, who is not an ALPA member, spent two weeks on the phone lobbying lawmakers to dump Shuster’s language. “It would make it harder to update our safety rules,” he told Politico.



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners. El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People's World en Washington, D.C. También es editor del servicio de noticias sindicales Press Associates Inc. (PAI).