In a move that’s ruffled feathers within her ranks and the aviation community, United States Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) has landed in the hot seat. Sinema’s proposed amendment to a bill could drastically reduce the training hours required for pilots to fly commercial planes, putting corporate interests ahead of public safety.
Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) emerged as one of Sinema’s staunchest critics. The Illinois senator, also a military veteran pilot, voiced her concerns, warning, “There has never been a worse time to consider weakening pilot certification requirements to produce less experienced pilots.” Her words are a stark reminder that public safety should never be compromised for expedience or profitability.
Notably, it’s been reported that the airline industry significantly filled Sinema’s campaign coffers over the last year. Given that she’s heading into the 2024 race as a newly minted independent, without the political or financial support of the Democratic party, such contributions could prove vital. However, they raise eyebrows over potential conflicts of interest.
During a Senate hearing for the legislation, Duckworth didn’t mince her words, underlining that prioritizing corporate gains over the safety of future air passengers is inexcusable. She warned, “A vote to reduce a 1,500-hour rule for pilot training will mean blood on your hands when an inevitable accident occurs due to an inadequately trained flight crew.”
Unions representing flight crews are also sounding the alarm. The Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents 50,000 flight attendants, has publicly criticized Sinema’s amendment. Union president Sara Nelson stated emphatically, “We do not support the amendment,” emphasizing the undeniable fact that U.S. aviation has seen its safest decade since the current rule was implemented.
Similarly, the Air Line Pilots Association, representing tens of thousands of airline pilots, has urged the Senate to reject Sinema’s amendment, dubbing it a “poison pill.” The union cautioned that Sinema’s proposal would undermine the current aviation safety standards that have contributed to the safest period in air travel history, introducing an unacceptable risk to the air transportation system.
Senator Sinema’s attempt to relax pilot training standards has raised significant concerns about safety, corporate influence, and potential conflicts of interest. This development is a timely reminder for millennial readers of the importance of keeping corporate profits from taking precedence over people’s lives.