The fatal crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 has commuter air transportation in the public hot seat and hot on freshly minted FAA administrator Randy Babbitt's personal plate. Just last week, and all related to the crash: One carrier was fined, four senators called for an independent investigation into federal oversight of carriers, and a then pre-confirmation Babbitt kept safety high on his list of talking points. Babbitt at a Tuesday hearing told senators, "I think we need to look at the training" and "safety will be my number-one priority." Citing growth as the driving factor that was pushing less experienced pilots to fly more commuter aircraft into unfamiliar airports, Babbit said it all adds up "to make an environment that exposes them to a lot higher risk levels." Senators who heard testimony about the February Colgan crash that killed all 49 aboard and one on the ground near Buffalo are pushing the Transportation Department's inspector general to see if regulations and oversight enforcement and compliance are having their desired effect. And a $1.3 million federal fine was issued against Gulfstream International Airlines, which once trained the Colgan flight's captain, for falsified records that allowed pilots to fly beyond regulated limits.
Babbitt's comments Tuesday imply that he will hold the agency accountable to NTSB recommendations. "We have an obligation to either adopt, modify and adopt or explain why we didn't adopt any particular recommendation," Babbitt told senators. A relative of one of the crash victims of Colgan Air who earlier had the chance to interact with Babbitt and then witnessed the Tuesday hearing was optimistic about Babbitt's potential influence on the FAA, but "it will depend with how well he deals with the bureaucracy."