The Politics of Remembering 3407
It’s said that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.” The famous quote from Albert Einstein was repeated several times in Washington last week as the families of the victims of flight 3407 marked the four year anniversary of the crash that killed 50 people in Western New York. It was a somber anniversary some observed by expressing their frustration.
“There were a lot of emotions in the room and I think you saw that on display,” said Republican Congressman Tom Reed of Corning.
Reed stood with the family of the victims and several members of New York’s Congressional Delegation during a joint press conference at the Capitol Tuesday. After pledging his support for the continued push to implement new airline safety regulations in the wake of the crash, Reed introduced Western New York’s newest Congressman Chris Collins.
“Chris was one of the first people on the scene. He shares a commitment, along with the families of the victims, to make sure we get the new safety regulations implemented,” Reed said.
Collins was the Erie County Executive on February 12th, 2009. Fighting back tears, Collins said the images of the crash in Clarence Center will remain etched in his memory forever.
“I was in charge of the emergency response. I am overwhelmed right now. Cause I remember that night like it was yesterday,” said Collins.
Collins isn’t known for public displays of emotion. During his campaign for New York’s newly formed 27th Congressional District, Collins joked about how some people told him he needed to smile more.
Standing in front of those who lost loved ones, and the assembled National and Western New Yorkmedia, the Freshman Republican gave a fiery speech calling for a change in strategy.
“The loss of those 50 souls never should have happened. And we should not be standing here now asking the FAA to do a job. And I’m sorry. But a new deadline is unacceptable. To say, and I’m sorry Senator Schumer, to say that they’re going to meet the deadline; they’ve missed the deadline again, and again, and again. That is unacceptable. Words are unacceptable” Collins said.
Just minutes earlier New York’s Senior Senator was speaking at the very same podium. He acknowledged that two and half years after safety regulations were passed though Congress, the airline industry had not yet implemented some of the most important ones.
“It’s a long process,” Schumer said.
Schumer said the Federal Aviation Administration is still not enforcing rules that require all pilots, not just captains, to have 15-hundred hours of flight time before they’re certified. Schumer also said the FAA has not adopted enhancements to traditional training programs that would require the use of flight simulation training devices for flight crew members, and additional training in areas that are critical to safety.
“What we’ve all come to do is to tell the FAA to implement these rules by August and October 2013 deadline respectively. But to also make sure these rules are enforced on day one. The good news is we spoke to the FAA this morning and they’ve assured us that they are on track to meet both the August deadline for pilot certification and the October deadline for crew member training. They told us they will meet those deadlines,” Schumer said.
Eleven minutes after leaving the room to cast a vote on the Senate floor, a visibly annoyed Schumer retook the podium.
“I have something else I want to say,” Schumer said.
And in a rare misstep, the Brooklyn Democrat responded to remarks made by “Senator Collins.”
“I heard when I was out of the room that Senator Collins said we shouldn’t be tricked by the FAA. We’ve had a long experience of four years with the FAA. And we are going to watch them like hawks. As we have, and when they falter we get on their case and we make sure they do the job.”
Schumer said if the FAA failed to meet the new deadlines:
“They will be hearing from us to make sure it happens we are all on the same team here. And we’re all going to get this done together.”
The remarks by Collins and response by Schumer seemed unusual in a press conference that was otherwise well–choreographed. Afterward, Congressman Reed quickly stepped in to play peacemaker.
“I talked to the Senator afterwards, and we both agree we need to stay united. We need to send one loud unified voice. Chuck has been a very strong supporter of the efforts to get these new safety regulations though congress and implemented by the FAA. And I applaud him,” Reed said.
Reed was also quick to defend Collins. When asked to describe Collins’ remarks, Reed had a simple explanation.
“I don’t think it was an attack. It was just an emotional response to see what needs to get done, gets done,” Reed said.
A spokesperson for Collins declined to comment specifically on the incident.
“The focus should be the effort by Flight 3407 families and Congress to press the FAA to implement the new regulations that were passed by Congress. Congressman Collins was expressing his frustration that the FAA has yet to implement the new regulations,” said Grant Loomis, Collins’ Communications Director.
Tuesday, FAA representatives told 3407 family members that work to put the new regulations in place wouldn’t be completed until 2014. Loomis suggested the fact the FAA would miss another deadline, proved Collins’ frustrations were “founded.”
A day after the anniversary of the crash Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta sent a letter to Senators Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand clarifying the FAA’s position. Huerta said he hoped to complete work on the pilot qualifications rule by August and the flight crew member training rule by October.
As uncomfortable as the Collins-Schumer moment may have seemed for those watching, it certainly was a different approach.
“But I can promise the families now that I’m in this position that I’m not going to just listen to words. Words are not enough. And the airlines that have been fighting us are unconscionable,” Collins said.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Casey Bortnick on February 17, 2013 at 6:21 pm, and is filed under Chris Collins, Chuck Schumer, Uncategorized. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|