July 30, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House today passed an amendment by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) to the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2014, requiring the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to study and determine whether existing commercial aircraft should be required to install low-airspeed voice warning systems.

“Pilots make life-or-death decisions in a matter of seconds,” says Speier. “It is vital that planes have alerts that are instantly recognizable, clear, and unambiguous. After numerous incidents and nearly a decade of concerns, the FAA continues to drag its feet on the question of low-airspeed warning systems."

The amendment is in response to the Asiana Airlines Flight 214 from Incheon, South Korea, which crashed on its final approach to San Francisco International Airport on July 6th. Initial reports have illustrated that low-airspeed was a crucial factor in this crash. The FAA will have one year to complete this study and make a determination if both new aircraft and existing aircraft should be required to incorporate a verbal warning system.

Low airspeed has been a concern for air safety for almost twenty years. A number of events have pointed towards reform:

  • In 1996, the FAA’s Human Factors Team concluded that flight crews needed better warnings that the aircraft was reaching low air speeds.
  • In 2003, following the crash that killed Senator Paul Wellstone, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended the FAA study whether to require installation of low-airspeed aural and visual alert systems.
  • Following the Colgan Air crash in Buffalo, NY, a recommendation was reissued in 2010 on installation of redundant aural and visual warnings of impending hazardous low-speed conditions.

“We have plenty of evidence that giving pilots this tool could have -- and will -- save lives. The FAA needs to translate this evidence into action.”