Dems demand answers from Trump’s safety board nominee

Dems demand answers from Trump’s safety board nominee
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats are demanding that President Trump’s nominee to serve on a federal safety board clarify his position regarding flight safety rules.

A group of lawmakers, lead by Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDems must stop picking foxes to guard the financial hen house Schumer warns 'House moderates' against immigration compromise bill Trump knocks Schumer, touts North Korea summit in early morning tweet MORE (D-N.Y.), have asked Bruce Landsberg to explain a string of critical statements that he made regarding the 1,500-hour training requirement for commercial airline pilots.

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Landsberg, who Trump nominated to be a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) member, is scheduled to testify in front of the Senate Commerce Committee on Tuesday.

At issue is a law that requires co-pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight training experience under their belt before they can get a license to fly commercial passenger airliners. Congress implemented the rule after a deadly 2009 Colgan Air crash in New York, in which pilot error was to blame.

But regional airlines have long been pushing back against the tougher training standards, which they say are fueling a pilot shortage. There has also been an effort in the Senate to ease the training requirements in a long-term aviation bill.

Landsberg, who worked for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, wrote an article in 2012 suggesting that there are “better ways” to address the Colgan crash. He also called the flight training requirements a “non-issue.”

Senate Democrats are now asking him to clarify his position on the law. Lawmakers also want to know whether Landsberg is committed to upholding the training standards, if he is confirmed.

“These comments are particularly concerning to us because they seem to suggest that you do not support the current law," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Landsberg. "The United States traveling public deserve the highest integrity and objectivity when NTSB determines an accident’s probable cause and then issues safety judgments and recommendations.”

“We plan to continue to hold NTSB accountable for delivering on this responsibility,” they added.

Supporters of the flight-training rule have been increasingly worried that the requirements could get scaled back under the Trump administration.

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee approved a report in September recommending that the Trump administration roll back or ease dozens of safety rules, including the 1,500-hour rule.

Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneTrump plan to claw back billion in spending in peril McConnell: Mueller 'ought to wrap it up' Graham jokes about Corker: GOP would have to be organized to be a cult MORE (R-S.D.), chairman of the Transportation Committee, also included language in an FAA bill this year to allow pilots to receive training credit through alternative means, such as academic training as opposed to flight hours, as long as the FAA deemed it to be safe.

The bill was approved by committee, but has not yet been scheduled for a floor vote.

Lawmakers including Schumer have vowed to block the bill if it contains Thune’s pilot training provision.

Thune promised to work on compromise language with Democrats. So far, however, no deal has been made.