Congress Pushes For More Oversight Of Regional Airlines

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Four senators have asked the Transportation Department Office of Inspector General to investigate safety enforcement at regional airlines, the Associated Press reported this week. Also, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the aviation subcommittee of the Commerce Committee, said he will hold a series of hearings, starting June 10, to investigate the issues. "The disclosures about crew rest, compensation, training, and many other issues demonstrate the urgent need for Congress and the FAA to take actions to make certain the same standards exist for both commuter airlines and the major carriers," Dorgan said. "The NTSB investigation has disclosed some very serious problems that need to be corrected immediately."

The issue was also raised Tuesday during confirmation hearings for Randy Babbitt, President Barack Obama's nominee to head the FAA. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., met with Babbitt just before the hearing, and told the AP that Babbitt said he will look into the FAA's regulation of pilot work hours at regional airlines. "I told him it seems to me they underpay and overwork their pilots," Schumer said. "He said he would look at it all. He said he was passionate about pilot fatigue." Other senators signing the letter to the OIG were Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Jim DeMint, R-S.C.