With light snow, some fog and ice in the air, Flight 3407 crashed into a house on Long Street in Clarence Center four years ago tonight, at 10:17 PM, killing all 49 on board and one on the ground.
And while many will remember in their own ways, with prayers or private thoughts, 50 of those who had relatives die in the crash are in Washington today for meetings with Members of Congress and the FAA
"I lost my daughter four years ago and she should be with me. .. says John Kausner, who will also attend President Obama's state of the Union address tonight. . "That's not something you can ask the public to alleviate But what we've done is say ' This is the reason our loved ones are lost. Let's change the reason '" Kausner's daughter Elly was 24 years old when she died in the crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigation of the accident highlighted weaknesses in pilot training, tiring work schedules, lengthy commutes and relatively low experience levels for pilots at some regional carriers- and triggered the families' push for related airline safety rules.
Just last week a report by the Department of Transportation's Inspector General, found federal regulators are struggling to implement a sweeping aviation safety law enacted after the crash.
"They passed a law, two years ago. We are now trying to get the FAA to reflect that law in their regulations. The airlines are pushing back pretty hard. Our only ability is to push back and explain why they have to be enacted, "
--John Kausner, father of Flt. 3407 victim Elly Kausner, killed four years ago .
In 20010 the FAA substantially revised its rules governing pilot work schedules to better ensure pilots are rested when they fly. It was the first modification of the rules since 1985 and "a significant achievement" for the FAA.
"The law is only as strong as the regulations that come from it so this (implementation) process is the true measuring stick of how this law will ultimately be viewed," said Kevin Kuwik, spokesman for a group of family members of victims killed in the crash.
Kuwik lost his girlfriend, 30-year-old Lorin Maurer, in the accident.
(Kuwik is pictured left, with Lorin's father Scott wiping tears, at a 2009 hearing on the crash)
The FAA is also running into problems creating a new, centralized electronic database that airlines can check prior to hiring pilots, the report said. The database is supposed to include pilots' performance on past tests of flying skills.
In each case, the agency has run into significant opposition from the airline industry, the report said.
"To effectively implement these initiatives in a timely manner, (the) FAA must balance industry concerns with a sustained commitment to oversight," the report said.
|WBEN EXTRA: A photo album of the Memorial Site.|
The agency also noted that it has "delivered seven reports to Congress, initiated five rulemaking projects and continued rulemaking efforts for another four final rules as a result of the" new safety law.
The inspector general's report, however, details how FAA has missed deadlines and run into complications trying to issue regulations necessary to implement key portions of the law. For example, the FAA is behind schedule on rules to substantially increase the experience required to become an airline pilot from the current 250 flight hours to 1,500 flight hours
"If the foot-dragging continues and missing deadlines..., the potentially significant effects of the safety bill will be lost," Kuwik said.
Kuwik said he gives the FAA "a lot of credit" for revising the work schedule rules and for staying in touch with victims' family members. However, he said it's critical that the agency meet deadlines later this year for issuing new regulations on pilot training and qualifications.
The agency currently estimates it will issue the rules in August, a year after the deadline set in the law. Airlines, worried they won't be able to find enough qualified new pilots, oppose the increase, arguing that a pilot's quality and type of flying should be weighed more heavily than the number of flight hours.
The FAA has proposed a compromise that would allow military pilots with 750 hours of flight experience or pilots with 1,000 hours and a four-year aviation degree to qualify to be hired as an airline pilot, but airlines remain opposed. If the FAA doesn't act by the August deadline, the increase to 1,500 hours will take effect without the exceptions offered in FAA's compromise proposals.
Yet the FAA and its inspectors haven't taken steps to ensure regional airlines, which will most affected, will be able to meet the new requirements, the report said. At two regional carriers visited by the inspector general's office, 75 percent of the first officers didn't have an air transport certificate _ the highest level pilot's license issued by the FAA _which will be required for all airline pilots by the August deadline.