Colgan Air families praise new pilot standards

"We dedicate it the memory of our loved ones who lost their lives in a needless and highly avoidable tragedy, because a regional airline took numerous shortcuts in how it hired, trained, scheduled, and resourced its pilots," the 3407 families statement continued. "We reiterate that every passenger setting foot on a commercial flight deserves the same level of commitment to, and investment in safety, from the carrier operating that flight, whether it be United, Pinnacle, Mesaba, or any other Part 121 carrier." 

The previous standard for commercial pilots was only 250 hours of flight training.

The fight of pilot qualifications had stretched back to 2010, when Congress mandated that the FAA develop new standards in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of that year.

The FAA boosted the length of off-time between flights mandated for pilots in 2011, but the agency took much longer to increase the qualification standards for flying airplanes.

The experience of pilots has received renewed interest this week since crash of an Asiana Airlines plane in San Francisco, which resulted in the deaths of two people and 180 other injuries.

Federal investigators have hinted they suspect pilot error contributed to the Asiana crash, and the airline has confirmed that the captain of the plane was training to learn to fly the Boeing 777 airplane.

However, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said Wednesday that the new rules for U.S. pilot qualifications were a result of the efforts of the Colgan Air crash victims' relatives.

"The rule gives first officers a stronger foundation of aeronautical knowledge and experience before they fly for an air carrier,” Huerta said in a statement. “With this rule and our efforts to address pilot fatigue — both initiatives championed by the families of Colgan flight 3407 — we're making a safe system even safer."

The acknowledgements of the 3407 families on Wednesday revealed how long the pilot qualification fight has been fought, including several lawmakers who have since left Congress.

"We owe a major debt of gratitude to the Aviation Subcommittees in both houses, the members and their staffs, to include Sen. [Maria] Cantwell [D-Wash.] and [Kelly] Ayotte [R-N.H.], and Reps. Frank LoBiondo [R-N.J.] and [Rick] Larsen [D-Wash.], as well as their predecessors who did so much to make this possible including [former] Sen. [Byron] Dorgan [D-N.D.] and former Rep. [Jim] Oberstar [D-Minn.], [Rep. John] Mica [R-Fla.], [former Rep. Jerry] Costello [D-Ill.], and [Rep. Tom] Petri [R-Wis.]," the group said.