Friday, August 25, 2017

Senator Blumenthal: Federal Aviation Administration must Curb Small-Plane Crashes in Connecticut



Saying that he's "astonished and appalled" by a series of small-plane crashes in Connecticut, Sen. Richard Blumenthal on Friday called on federal regulators to beef up safety measures.

"These planes are falling out of the sky in unprecedented numbers," Blumenthal said at a press conference near the site of a fatal Piper Seneca crash last October. "Eight crashes and six fatalities makes this year one of the deadliest ever."

Blumenthal acknowledged that there appears to be no single link between the wrecks or why they happened. He wants the Federal Aviation Administration to examine all aspects of flying safety from pilot training to plane maintenance.

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating most of the crashes, but so far all preliminary reports show no obvious connection such as bad weather or defective engines.

The FAA in the past has said each crash is being thoroughly investigated, but otherwise has not commented.

NTSB records show at least eight small-plane wrecks in Connecticut since this time last year. Six people have died.

Seven of those wrecks occurred since Jan. 1 - during that same period, all the other New England states combined had nine crashes.

"I am demanding today answers from the FAA and action to stop the rising tide of aviation accidents that all too often are fatal," Blumenthal said. "What we see is an unprecedented spike in the number of crashes, but even more alarmingly the number of fatal crashes. The danger is not just to the folks who fly but to people on the ground."

Blumenthal isn't recommending any specific change in regulations, but instead wants the FAA to put forward ideas. He said the agency might want to increase the requirements for a pilot's license, raising the number of hours a new pilot must spend flying accompanied by an instructor. The agency could also consider tighter medical and psychological vetting of prospective pilots, he said.

East Hartford police reports suggest the trainee pilot in the East Hartford crash might have been suicidal, and the NTSB said the wreck appeared to be intentional. The FBI is still investigating.

Blumenthal said no safety measures would be entirely foolproof, but predicted that strengthening them would reduce the crash rate. In a letter Friday to Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta, Blumenthal noted that commercial flights have been largely free of fatal crashes in recent years.

"It is imperative that we bring the same level of safety that exists in commercial aviation to the general aviation sector," he wrote.

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.courant.com

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