Release #09.018
May 12, 2009

Colgan Accident Underscores Value of Pilot Training

WASHINGTON – Capt. Paul Rice, first vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), issued the following statement after day one of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Public Hearing on the Colgan Air Flight 3407 accident that took place near Buffalo, New York in February 2009.

“This accident was a terrible tragedy. We must work together throughout the airline industry to do all we can to build a legacy of a safer air transportation system to honor all involved.

“The National Transportation Safety Board public hearing that began today is designed to explore the facts behind the accident. ALPA feels that it is imperative for all involved—especially the parties—to remember that the investigation remains ongoing. Premature conclusions have no place at this stage in the NTSB process. Such conclusions will fail to make our industry safer.

“The facts presented at the hearing today relate to critical industry-wide aviation safety issues about which ALPA has long held concerns. The express carrier segment of the airline industry has experienced enormous growth in the recent past. As a result, pilots often have less time to gain first-hand experience before assuming command. If we are to maintain the safety of our air transportation system, pilot training programs must evolve to meet the needs of these pilots.

“ALPA has long maintained that training for both new hires and more experienced pilots must encompass all aspects of what it means to be a professional airline pilot. Adequate training on how to operate the aircraft safely, particularly in abnormal and potentially hazardous situations, is essential but it is not the only training necessary. Equally essential is command training designed to teach pilots the sound judgment and leadership skills that they might not have received through previous experience but are requisite to the airline piloting profession.

“Airline pilots share an unwavering dedication to safety as they carry out their responsibilities. Airline management must regard pilot training as an investment in the safety of our airlines, our passengers, and our industry and not as a cost to be minimized. Our industry must ensure that every pilot receives the training that will position them to deliver on their commitment to the highest possible level of safety.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilots union, representing nearly 54,000 pilots at 36 airlines in the United States and Canada.

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Contact: Linda Shotwell, 703/481-4440 or