Federal Railroad Administrator Ron Batory in a Jan. 14 letter to union leaders denied a request from the SMART Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) to issue an emergency order to safeguard passenger rail travelers and workers, even in the face of known threats and the potential for violence, according to the FBI.
“Regrettably, we received a response from FRA Administrator Ron Batory that denied our Emergency Order request from earlier this week,” SMART-TD President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “It seems that the safety-first mentality has fleeted under his watch and now the agency is not even willing to strengthen or increase enforcement actions against those that may do harm to the people, equipment, or infrastructure of this nation’s rail system – a complete deviation from FAA, its sister agency under the same DOT umbrella.
“FAA has announced extremely aggressive measures to deter those willing to do harm from boarding commercial aircraft. It’s sad that FRA refuses to do the same.”
In his letter, Batory deferred to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), and encouraged rail labor to work with the carriers on bulking up security. This is in spite of the FRA being the primary agency responsible for regulating and enforcing passenger behavior, including the interference or assault of a train crew.
“While your petition correctly notes the differences in statutory and regulatory authorities between the Federal Aviation Administration and the FRA, which evolved based upon operational differences and legislative considerations, these differences do not provide a basis for FRA to take the requested action,” Batory responded. “Accordingly, FRA declines to grant your request for an emergency order. In addition, FRA does not believe it would be appropriate to introduce such an emergency order into the long-standing, well-established law enforcement partnerships between railroads and Federal, state, and local agencies.
“Consistent with your stated willingness ‘to work with the applicable agencies,’ we encourage you to work with railroads as they coordinate to provide for safe passenger rail service at the upcoming Inauguration and beyond,” Batory wrote.
Leaders from both SMART-TD and the BLET, two of the nation’s largest railroad labor unions, expressed concerns to FRA on Jan. 11 and to DHS on Jan. 13 about security vulnerabilities in passenger rail service in the wake of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection that occurred at the U.S. Capitol. While airport and air travel security administered by the FAA is well-equipped to react to bar those suspected of causing violence from air travel, no such measures are in place for passenger rail.
“Realizing years of neglect cannot be fixed overnight, we are demanding that significant changes to passenger rail protocol be granted immediately to protect against the imminent threat of danger that exists today,” President Ferguson and BLET President Dennis R. Pierce said. “It is our recommendation, as a minimal standard, that any regulation granted to prohibit the interference of a train crew’s duty be in line with that of aviation statutes and regulations.”
Among the remedies suggested by the union leaders to FRA was the establishment and implementation of a “No-Ride List,” which would mirror the FAA’s “No Fly List” and restrict people from using passenger rail. This solution also was shared with the DHS in the Jan. 13 emergency order request.
“There is nothing more important than the safety of our employees. Since the start of the pandemic, our dedicated frontline employees have kept our trains running, providing a vital transportation service to essential workers. We join our labor partners in continuing to call upon Congress and the Administration to make assaults against rail workers a Federal crime, as it is for aviation workers, and to expand the TSA’s “No Fly List” to rail passenger service,” Flynn said.
“After last week’s violent attack on the U.S. Capitol, we are taking extra steps to continue ensuring the safety of our employees and customers in Washington DC and across our network as we prepare for the Inauguration. In addition to limiting ticket sales and requiring masks to be worn at all times, we are increasing our police enforcement to ensure strong compliance, remove noncomplying customers and ban those that don’t follow our policies,” Flynn said. “This includes deploying additional Amtrak Police officers onboard our trains and in our stations to support our frontline staff, and utilizing additional support from TSA and partner law enforcement agencies.”
As a precaution in advance of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden next week, two regional passenger rail carriers have announced service changes. The Maryland Department of Transportation stated it was halting traffic on three MARC lines from Jan. 17th to the 20th. Virginia Railway Express (VRE) said it will not operate trains Monday, Jan. 18 through Jan. 20 as well, citing security concerns.
DHS continues to weigh the emergency order request from the unions to implement a “No-Ride List” despite Batory’s rejection of the unions’ emergency order request and FRA’s failure to act.
CLEVELAND, Ohio (Jan. 12, 2021) — The leaders of two of the nation’s largest railroad worker unions urgently petitioned the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in a letter January 11 to prevent security vulnerabilities and to protect those who ride — as well as the essential workers who operate — Amtrak passenger rail service in and around the nation’s capital after the deadly Jan. 6 insurrection.
The International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers — Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) demanded that FRA and DHS take immediate executive action to tighten security and enhance punishments, and to increase personnel to a level that brings passenger rail security more in line with aviation security overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the threat of political violence swirls.
“Realizing years of neglect cannot be fixed overnight, we are demanding that significant changes to passenger rail protocol be granted immediately to protect against the imminent threat of danger that exists today,” Presidents Jeremy R. Ferguson of SMART-TD and Dennis R. Pierce of the BLET said. “It is our recommendation, as a minimal standard, that any regulation granted to prohibit the interference of a train crew’s duty be in line with that of aviation statutes and regulations.”
Suspected insurrectionists continue to threaten further violence as the transition to President-elect Joe Biden’s administration approaches next week. Some of these have been relegated to the No Fly List overseen by FAA, preventing them from traveling by air, but no such restriction exists for the national passenger rail network. SMART-TD and BLET urge that a “no-ride” list that mirrors FAA’s list be enacted immediately.
Similarly, train stations lack security. Absent the screening protocols similar to those provided by the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) at the nation’s airports, armed riders with malicious intent could board an Amtrak train with weapons, putting passengers and rail workers at risk of injury or death. To remedy this, SMART-TD and BLET call for an additional law enforcement presence in the form of Amtrak police or, if manpower is insufficient, requests the Department of Justice or Department of Homeland Security bring in U.S. Marshals or TSA agents to take measures approaching those enacted by the airline industry.
A proportional presence of workers in the passenger compartments of Amtrak trains similar to that in the airline industry, with at least one conductor or assistant conductor present per 50 riders aboard also can enhance safety and the response aboard the train if an emergency does occur.
“SMART-TD is committed to safety, and we will accept nothing less. Our men and women risk their lives every single day as critical infrastructure employees in the railroad industry,” Ferguson said. “They have no way of knowing if an individual is violent, armed, or much less already flagged as a known risk to safety via the TSA’s No Fly List. Every encounter could serve as an agitation or provocation of an already aggravated individual to attack.
“Our members deserve better and the traveling public deserves better. We are willing and able to work with all applicable agencies to achieve this goal, but it must be done today.”
“Railroad workers have continued to serve the needs of the traveling public during these difficult times,” BLET President Pierce said. “Our members are hardworking Americans who put their lives at risk each day in the performance of their duties. In the aftermath of the violence in our nation’s capital last week, our members and the traveling public deserve increased protection during this time of ongoing political unrest. We stand ready to assist FRA, TSA and Homeland Security to help ensure the safety of our members and the traveling public.”
The SMART Transportation Division is comprised of approximately 125,000 active and retired members of the former United Transportation Union, who work in a variety of different crafts, including as bus and commuter rail operators, in the transportation industry.
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen represents nearly 58,000 professional locomotive engineers and trainmen throughout the United States. The BLET is the founding member of the Rail Conference, International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao has announced that Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Deputy Administrator Daniel K. Elwell will serve as Acting FAA Administrator upon the conclusion of Administrator Michael Huerta’s term. Huerta’s term ended at midnight on Jan. 7, 2018.
“Our nation is grateful for Administrator Huerta’s service to the FAA and his commitment to aviation safety,” Chao said of Huerta.
Elwell was appointed the FAA Deputy Administrator in June 2017. Elwell took office at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 7. He was replaced as deputy administrator by Carl Burleson, the deputy assistant administrator for policy, international and environment in an acting capacity. FAA’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for Information and Technology Tina Amereihm has taken over as FAA chief of staff, replacing Chris Rocheleau. Rocheleau was recently named as executive director for international aviation.
Elwell has a wealth of experience with the FAA and other agencies, having held various positions such as FAA assistant administrator for policy, planning and environment from 2006 – 2008; senior vice president for safety, security and operations at Airlines for America from 2013 to 2015; and vice president of the Aerospace Industries Association from 2008 – 2013.
Elwell also served the airline industry as a commercial pilot for 16 years with American Airlines. He is also a former U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who saw combat during the Operation Desert Storm conflict.
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a final rule that overhauls the airworthiness standards for small general aviation airplanes. This innovative rule will reduce the time it takes to move safety enhancing technologies for small airplanes into the marketplace and will also reduce costs for the aviation industry.
“Aviation manufacturing is our nation’s top export and general aviation alone contributes approximately $80 billion and 400,000 jobs to our economy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The FAA’s rule replaces prescriptive design requirements with performance-based standards, which will reduce costs and leverage innovation without sacrificing safety.”
FAA’s new Part 23 rule establishes performance-based standards for airplanes that weigh less than 19,000 pounds with 19 or fewer seats and recognizes consensus-based compliance methods for specific designs and technologies. It also adds new certification standards to address general aviation loss of control accidents and in-flight icing conditions.
“The rule is a model of what we can accomplish for American competitiveness when government and industry work together and demonstrates that we can simultaneously enhance safety and reduce burdens on industry,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta.
The rule responds to the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 and the Small Airplane Revitalization Act of 2013, which directed the FAA to streamline the approval of safety advancements for small general aviation aircraft. It also addresses recommendations from the FAA’s 2013 Part 23 Reorganization Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which recommended a more streamlined approval process for safety equipment on small general aviation aircraft.
The new rule also promotes regulatory harmonization among the FAA’s foreign partners, including the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Transport Canada Civil Aviation (TCCA), and Brazil’s Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC). This harmonization may help minimize costs for airplane and engine manufacturers and operators of affected equipment who seek certification to sell products globally.
The rule affects airplane manufacturers, engine manufacturers, and operators of affected equipment. Click here to learn more from the FAA and industry about the benefits of streamlined certification.
This regulatory change is a leading example of how the FAA is transforming its Aircraft Certification Service into an agile organization that can support aviation industry innovation in the coming years. The Service is focused on using risk-based oversight to refresh the certification strategy, investing in management systems to improve performance, and improving the overall organization.
The rule will be effective eight months from publication in the Federal Register.
The House approved a bill on Monday to extend federal aviation funding, which is currently set to expire on Wednesday, until March 2016.
The measure, introduced on Friday by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R – Pa.), was approved by the lower chamber on a voice vote Monday afternoon in an effort to prevent an interruption in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) funding midweek.
The quick House action follows an earlier Senate effort to attach the FAA funding extension to a bill to prevent a government shutdown on Oct. 1 that failed last week.
Airlines sell a commodity and buy from monopolies, i.e., the airports that provide landing rights. So it isn’t surprising they have such a tough time making money. Now they have another problem: There aren’t enough pilots and co-pilots willing to work for the low pay offered by regional carriers.
Airlines call this a “shortage” and blame a recent rule from the Federal Aviation Administration that mandates co-pilots have at least 1,500 hours of flying experience, up from 250. At the margin, the rule does reduce the number of people qualified to serve as a first officer on a plane, but that doesn’t mean there is a shortage.
The Federal Aviation Administration Feb. 12 issued a final rule that reinforces that airline pilots cannot use portable electronic devices for personal use in all operations.
The rule codifies existing FAA policies and procedures and meets an FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 mandate by prohibiting all commercial airline (passenger and cargo) flight crews from using personal wireless communications devices or laptop computers for personal reasons during all aircraft operations.
The agency’s 1981 “sterile cockpit” rule already forbids pilots to engage in distracting behavior during critical phases of flight, including take-off and landing, and we have previously asked carriers to address the distraction issue through their crew training programs.
The rule reflects current flight deck operating procedures and imposes minimal cost to the airlines. This rule follows a Jan. 15, 2013, proposal and takes effect in 60 days.
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a proposed policy statement to establish the extent to which OSHA regulations may apply to flight attendants onboard an aircraft in operation.
An FAA-OSHA memorandum of understanding (MOU) previously established a team to identify factors to be considered when determining when OSHA standards may apply to employees on aircraft in operation.
Section 829 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 instructed the FAA to develop this proposed policy statement setting forth circumstances in which OSHA requirements may be applied to aircraft crewmembers.
The proposed policy statement, subject to amendment following a public comment period, says that because the FAA does not have regulations addressing certain issues, OSHA’s hazard communication, blood-borne pathogens and hearing conservation standards can be applied to the working conditions of flight attendants onboard an aircraft in operation.
The proposed policy statement defines an aircraft “in operation” from the time the first crewmember boards the aircraft to when the last crewmember leaves the aircraft after completion of the flight. The FAA notes that in another MOU, the FAA and OSHA will establish procedures that can be used to identify other conditions where OSHA requirements would apply while ensuring that such requirements would not negatively affect safety.
To read the proposed policy statement, click on the following link:
WASHINGTON – Qualification requirements for first officers who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines would be “substantially” raised under a proposed Federal Aviation Administration new rulemaking to be published in the Federal Register Feb. 29.
The agency, in a notice of proposed rulemaking, is responding to a mandate in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010.
The FAA, subject to public comment and publication of a final rule, proposes that first officers – also known as copilots – hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, requiring 1,500 hours of pilot flight time. Currently, first officers are required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time.
The proposed rule also would require first officers to have an aircraft-type rating, which involves additional training and testing specific to the airplanes they fly.
Other highlights of the proposed rule include:
* A requirement that pilots have a minimum of 1,000 flight hours as a pilot in air carrier operations that require an ATP prior to serving as a captain for a U.S. airline.
* Enhanced training requirements for an ATP certificate, including 50 hours of multi-engine flight experience and completion of a new FAA-approved training program.
* An allowance for pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours of flight time, but who have an aviation degree or military pilot experience, to obtain a “restricted privileges” ATP certificate. These pilots could serve only as a first officer, not as a captain. Former military pilots with 750 hours of flight time could apply for an ATP certificate with restricted privileges. Graduates of a four-year baccalaureate aviation degree could to obtain an ATP with 1,000 hours of flight time only if they also obtained a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating from a pilot school affiliated with the university or college.
To read the notice of proposed rulemaking, click on the following link:
WASHINGTON – The House and Senate agreed Feb. 6 on legislation authorizing increased future funding for new air traffic control technology and the Essential Air Service subsidy program to rural airports as part of a reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Lawmakers voted to scrap an attempt by House Republicans to overturn a 2011 National Mediation Board (NMB) ruling making organizing under the Railway Labor Act comport with rules of all other elections in the U.S.
President Obama says he will sign the bill into law.
The NMB last year revised its rule on representation elections, providing that in all representation elections under the Railway Labor Act (which also covers airline employees), only ballots from those actually voting would be counted. Previously, those not voting were considered to have voted “no” for representation. In changing its outdated 75-year-old representation election rule, the NMB said no other elections in the United States count those not voting as having voted ‘no.’
The legislation does change NMB representation rules by requiring 50 percent of eligible employees sign an authorization card (rather than 35 percent) before a representation election may be held. The UTU has long required more than 50 percent before seeking a representation election on railroad and airline properties it seeks to organize.
The legislation also requires public hearings for future NMB rulemakings, and requires Government Accountability Office audits of the NMB every two years.
While continuing the Essential Air Service subsidy program for rural airports, the legislation does cut service to some rural airports, but not those served by Great Lakes Airlines, whose crews are represented by the UTU.
The legislation provides some $13 billion for airport improvements and $38 billion for Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control operations.
WASHINGTON — The UTU and 17 other transportation labor organizations urged Congress Jan. 30 to pass a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization without making what they called “drastic and unnecessary changes to the Railway Labor Act.”
Historically, any changes to the Railway Labor Act have been jointly agreed to by labor and management – a primary reason the law has been so effective in ensuring uninterrupted commerce and keeping paychecks flowing in the airline and railroad industries.
In fact, when the Railway Labor Act was passed by Congress in 1926, it was the product of joint agreement by labor and management – and that collaboration has continued since.
In this instance, the House Republican leadership is seeking to use FAA reauthorization as a vehicle to overturn a National Mediation Board (NMB) ruling that made union-representation elections in the airline and railroad industry conform to the rules of virtually every other election tally in America.
The House Republican leadership, at the instigation of airline management, is seeking to overturn that National Mediation Board ruling that updated the agency’s union-representation voting rule. Previously, those not casting a ballot in a representation election were considered to have cast a “no” ballot. Nowhere else in American society does such a rule exist.
The NMB changed the rule to provide for a majority vote of those actually voting in a union representation election. That change was affirmed by a federal appeals court after airline carriers challenged it in court. Failing in court, the carriers turned to their friends in the House.
The transportation labor organizations told Congress in their joint statement:
“A rewrite of long-standing labor law deserves proper and due consideration through the normal deliberative process. Acting otherwise directly conflicts with the non-partisan recommendations of the 1994 report of the Dunlop Commission on the Future of Worker-Management negotiations. Unilaterally changing that law without labor’s input and without due deliberation threatens to unravel its carefully balanced goals of labor stability and uninterrupted commerce.
“Rewarding the House Republican leadership’s desire to rewrite decades of long-standing labor law in a flash by inserting an unrelated and controversial labor provision in a much needed aviation safety and security bill, without notice, hearing or debate, sets an extremely dangerous precedent.
“We urge the Senate to delete the provision of the bill that would amend the RLA and pass the clean FAA reauthorization that all concerned recognize this country sorely needs and supports.”