SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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H.R. 3267, THE CHILD PILOT SAFETY ACT
PLEASE NOTE: The following transcript is a portion of the official hearing record of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Additional material pertinent to this transcript may be found on the web site of the Committee at [http://www.house.gov/transportation]. Complete hearing records are available for review at the Committee offices and also may be purchased at the U.S. Government Printing Office.
Page 2 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED FOURTH CONGRESS
MAY 1, 1996
Printed for the use of the
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure
COMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTUCTURE
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania, Chairman
DON YOUNG, Alaska
WILLIAM F. CLINGER, Jr., Pennsylvania
THOMAS E. PETRI, Wisconsin
SHERWOOD L. BOEHLERT, New York
HERBERT H. BATEMAN, Virginia
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee
Page 3 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSUSAN MOLINARI, New York
WILLIAM H. ZELIFF, Jr., New Hampshire
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
WAYNE T. GILCHREST, Maryland
Y. TIM HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
BILL BAKER, California
JAY KIM, California
STEPHEN HORN, California
BOB FRANKS, New Jersey
PETER I. BLUTE, Massachusetts
JOHN L. MICA, Florida
JACK QUINN, New York
TILLIE K. FOWLER, Florida
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER T. BACHUS, Alabama
JERRY WELLER, Illinois
ZACH WAMP, Tennessee
TOM LATHAM, Iowa
STEVEN C. LaTOURETTE, Ohio
ANDREA SEASTRAND, California
RANDY TATE, Washington
SUE KELLY, New York
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
BILL MARTINI, New Jersey
DAN FRISA, New York
Page 4 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCTODD TIAHRT, Kansas
RICHARD H. BAKER, Louisiana
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
NICK J. RAHALL II, West Virginia
ROBERT A. BORSKI, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
ROBERT E. WISE, Jr., West Virginia
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BOB CLEMENT, Tennessee
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
PETE GEREN, Texas
GLENN POSHARD, Illinois
BUD CRAMER, Alabama
BARBARA-ROSE COLLINS, Michigan
ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON, District of Columbia
JERROLD NADLER, New York
PAT DANNER, Missouri
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
JAMES A. BARCIA, Michigan
BOB FILNER, California
EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON, Texas
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBILL K. BREWSTER, Oklahoma
KAREN McCARTHY, Missouri
FRANK MASCARA, Pennsylvania
THOMAS C. SAWYER, Ohio
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
JUANITA MILLENDER-McDONALD, California
ELIJAH E. CUMMINGS, Maryland
SUBCOMMITTEE ON AVIATION
JOHN J. DUNCAN, Jr., Tennessee, Chairman
JERRY WELLER, Illinois, Vice-Chairman
WILLIAM F. CLINGER, Jr., Pennsylvania
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
WILLIAM H. ZELIFF, Jr., New Hampshire
THOMAS W. EWING, Illinois
Y. TIM HUTCHINSON, Arkansas
JAY KIM, California
VERNON J. EHLERS, Michigan
SPENCER T. BACHUS, Alabama
ANDREA SEASTRAND, California
RANDY TATE, Washington
SUE KELLY, New York
RAY LaHOOD, Illinois
Page 6 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCBILL MARTINI, New Jersey
BUD SHUSTER, Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. LIPINSKI, Illinois
JERRY F. COSTELLO, Illinois
JAMES A. TRAFICANT, Jr., Ohio
PETER A. DeFAZIO, Oregon
BUD CRAMER, Alabama
BARBARA-ROSE COLLINS, Michigan
JERROLD NADLER, New York
PAT DANNER, Missouri
ROBERT MENENDEZ, New Jersey
JAMES E. CLYBURN, South Carolina
CORRINE BROWN, Florida
PETE GEREN, Texas
JAMES L. OBERSTAR, Minnesota
Boyer, Phil, President, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Legislative Action
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Coyne, James K., President, National Air Transportation Association
Hinson, Hon. David R., Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, accompanied by Anthony Broderick, Associate Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration
Inhofe, Hon. James, a U.S. Senator from Oklahoma
Lightfoot, Hon. Jim, a Representative in Congress from Iowa
Stimpson, Edward W., President, General Aviation Manufacturers Association
PREPARED STATEMENTS SUBMITTED BY WITNESSES
Coyne, James K
Hinson, Hon. David R
Inhofe, Hon. James
Lightfoot, Hon. Jim
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H.R. 3267, THE CHILD PILOT SAFETY ACT
WEDNESDAY, MAY 1, 1996
U.S. House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Aviation,
Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 1 p.m. in room 2167, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. John J. Duncan, Jr. (chairman of the subcommittee) presiding.
Mr. DUNCAN. The subcommittee will please come to order.
Good afternoon and welcome.
The subcommittee will focus today on legislation that the ranking member, Mr. Lipinski, Mr. Lightfoot, myself, and several other Members introduced last week, the Child Pilot Safety Act, as a result, at least in part, of the highly-publicized accident just 2 weeks ago that killed 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff, her father, and the flight instructor.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me first thank our very distinguished witnesses for taking time to be with us today. We are very fortunate to have as our first two witnesses two very good friends of mine, Representative Jim Lightfoot, who I mentioned was a co-sponsor of this legislation, and Senator Jim Inhofe, both of whom have served on this subcommittee before moving on to bigger and better things. In fact, I think that Mr. Lightfoot may be joining Senator Inhofe next year in the other Body.
We also have a distinguished panel of witnesses representing the general aviation community with us today. All of them have testified before the subcommittee on several occasions, and all of them have contributed significantly in addressing the issue we are discussing here today.
Mr. David Hinson, the Administrator of the FAA, will also testify. He and I worked very closely in developing this legislation, H.R. 3267. Mr. Hinson requested to testify last so that he can honor a longstanding commitment that had been scheduled before this hearing was announced.
I should stop at this point and say that Mr. Hinson, in my opinion, is one of the finest, if not the finest, FAA Administrator this Nation has ever had. I respect his counsel greatly and his enormous capacity in dealing with an incredible amount of difficulty and an incredible number of difficult and complex issues that face aviation today.
In my view, the tragic accident involving Jessica Dubroff was a direct result of extremely poor judgment by the flight instructor. My personal opinion is that the flight instructor was pressured to take off in very bad weather so that 7-year-old Jessica could attempt to set an age record for pilots flying across the country. Had this flight been successful, next year we would have probably seen a 6-year-old trying to break the record, and then a 5-year-old, and so on.
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When I first heard reports of this accident, I could not believe that a child of this age was actually flying this plane. In fact, I thought then and still think today that it was criminal that two adults actually decided to let this plane take off under those conditions.
Almost immediately my office started to receive calls and faxes about this. The opinions were split right down the middle, and strong feelings were felt on both sides.
People who are not pilots argued that children should not be flying in the cockpit of an aircraft. They more or less felt that, since we have an age limit for obtaining a driver's license, then we should have one to fly a plane.
Then we heard from the other side, the experienced pilots and flight instructors. They argued that little Jessica was not actually flying the plane, although the flight instructor did say publicly on several occasions that he would not touch the controls except in an absolute emergency.
So we have introduced legislation that, in my opinion, focuses on these types of media-driven publicity stunts without imposing additional regulations that would place undue restrictions on the entire aviation community. It is, I think, a balanced approach and I believe one that almost everyone can support.
The legislation also requires a study to be conducted by the FAA to determine if any additional rules or guidelines should be put in place for children flying in aircraft.
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According to the National Transportation Safety Board, since 1964 there have been 178 accidents and incidents involving pilots 16 years of age and younger.
I do want to mention, though, that there are several well-organized and responsible groups who introduce children to flying. This legislation will not hamper their good work. These organizations include the Civil Air Patrol, which has an outstanding program and has had for many years for young people ages 12 through 15, in addition to other groups such as the Aviation Explorer Scouts and the Experimental Aircraft Association's Young Eagles program. All of these are very fine and very well-organized programs that I and members of the subcommittee strongly support.
So I think we have an outstanding bill that addresses this issue without unneeded intrusions and heavy-handed regulations coming down from bureaucrats in Washington.
We look forward to hearing from our witnesses today and I now recognize my very distinguished ranking member, my good friend, Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, this afternoon's hearings will focus on the issue raised by children flying airplanes. There has been a great deal of interest in this subject since the crash of 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff on April 11, 1996.
When Jessica's Cessna crashed last month, people around the world were shocked and saddened. The tragedy brought to light many questions about what children should be allowed to do in a cockpit and what parents ought to let their children do.
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Today's hearing is not about parents exploiting children. The issue does not belong in a Congressional hearing room; rather, the issue of this afternoon's hearing is whether it is safe to have children fly airplanes.
When I first heard about Jessica's crash my initial reaction was that we needed to take strong action. It seemed to me that if a child cannot drive a car until he or she is 16 years of age, the same rules should apply to an airplane. In the end, this position may be the correct one, but the issues raised by children flying airplanes need to be better studied before jumping to any conclusions.
One thing we can conclude certainly from Jessica's tragedy is that an airplane is no place to be setting records for publicity.
Jessica's flight instructor, the pilot-in-command of the aircraft, had the ultimate responsibility for flying the plane. He, along with Jessica and her father, paid the ultimate price.
Unfortunately, it seems that we need to make it very clear who is the responsible party.
Chairman Duncan and I have introduced H.R. 3267, the Child Pilot Safety Act, as a means for further study of the issue. This legislation will prohibit anyone who does not hold a valid pilot's license from controlling an aircraft while trying to set a record or engage in any kind of aeronautical competition or feat. Any licensed pilot who allows an individual to manipulate an aircraft's controls in an attempt of this kind will have his or her pilot's license revoked.
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It is our hope that this legislation will send a clear message that these records and tricks will not be tolerated.
In addition, H.R. 3267 requires the Federal Aviation Administration to conduct a study of the impact of children flying aircraft and report to Congress within 6 months of enactment. As a result of the study, the FAA is authorized to issue regulations imposing age, attitude, or other restrictions on children flying aircraft.
Although the chairman and I agree that we need to take decisive action, we have concluded that further study of the issue is critical.
I would urge the FAA to conduct the study even before this legislation is enacted. We are all concerned about this and we all realize that it could be a real problem. There is no reason for the FAA to wait for enactment to get to work on this.
This afternoon we will hear from our former colleague, Senator Jim Inhofe, and our colleague, Jim Lightfoot. They will be followed by representatives from the National Air Transportation Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, all of whom have endorsed H.R. 3267. Finally, FAA Administrator David Hinson will testify.
Mr. Chairman, I want to thank you for your outstanding leadership on this issue.
Page 14 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. CRAMER. I have nothing, Mr. Chairman. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
Ms. DANNER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I do have a statement.
I think that all of us will remember that in Greek mythology Icarus wanted to fly, and his father cautioned him against it, but yet he failed to pay attention to his father's advice and he flew too close to the sun, the wax on his wings of feathers melted, and he fell to the earth. He didn't follow his father's advice.
Unfortunately, Jessica did follow her father's advice. She, too, flew and, unfortunately, she, too, fell to the earth.
There is a phrase that I think we're all familiar with. ''There is enough blame to go around.'' One has to question parents who would permit a 7-year-old to undertake such an endeavor, and for parents to say that if the child wanted to do it she should be able to express herself as she sees fit is, I think, an inadequate explanation.
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It was the father's idea. The father, according to news releases, borrowed $15,000 so that he could have, as Andy Warhol once said, his 15 minutes of fame.
With no media, with no publicity, there would have been no flight.
In addition, the media's ongoing search for a sensational story added to the problem. That fact was acknowledged by Ted Koppel on ''Nightline.'' He said, ''We need to begin by acknowledging our own contribution'' meaning the media''to feed one anotherthose of you looking for publicity and those of us looking for stories.''
Then he posed a question of whether we, in the media, by our ravenous attention, contributed to the phenomenon. He answered it himself: we did.
Thirdly, the FAA bears the greatest fault, I believe. For a full decade, for 10 years, at least, sundry entities have raised concerns about extremely youthful pilots. Ten years ago the highly-reputable ''Flying'' magazine figuratively speaking put its editorial foot down when they boycotted a 14-year-old's attempt to claim the age record.
As far back as 1987 I'm proud to say that the Missouri Pilot's Association contacted the FAA expressing their concern, because they were worried that an 11-year-old who had just set the record would be followed by an even younger child attempting to set a new record.
The National Aeronautics Association stopped certifying young pilot records prior to 1991, and in 1991 the ''Guiness Book of World Records'' stopped keeping score.
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I think you'll agree with me it is a tragedy, a human tragedy, to cause the FAA to recognize what they should have and could have addressed years ago, and because the FAA did not do it through regulation, it would appear that Congress must do it through legislation.
I thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Ms. Danner.
Before we go to Mr. Oberstar, he has very graciously agreed to let Senator Inhofe, who has to get back to the Senate, to go ahead and make his statement.
Senator Inhofe, thank you very much for being with us. You may proceed.
TESTIMONY OF HON. JAMES INHOFE, A U.S. SENATOR FROM OKLAHOMA
Senator INHOFE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Oberstar. I appreciate that very much and I'll make this much briefer than I was going to make it.
First of all, it's nice to be back here and be back in the Aviation Subcommittee. Every time I walk by these doors I think, if I had stayed in the House, and not moved to the Senate, I would be having that seat up there where you are, Mr. Duncan.
We will be looking forward to welcoming Mr. Lightfoot over to our side, and we hope to continue the relationship that we've had in the past.
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Let me just make a comment that the future of aviation is really in the hands of the young people like Jessica Dubroff. She developed an interest in flying. I know her parents had a lot to do with that. But in no way should we dampen that enthusiasm by responding to a perceived problem.
Allowing children to take controls is not something that is a serious problem. It's not anything that contributed to this particular tragedy. I can tell you that my four children were flying my airplane with me, although I was at the controls, when they were younger than Jessica.
The concern I have is that this will be sensationalized to such an extent that we will pass unnecessary regulations and laws. However, this is not the case in the bill that we have before us.
The crash of the Cessna 171 Cardinal with the pilot Joe Reid and passengers Jessica and Lloyd Dubroff was a tragedy. And notice I said the pilot, Joe Reid, and the passenger, Jessica Dubroff. Despite the public perception, Jessica was not flying that airplane. Her instructor, Joe Reid, was the pilot-in-command, and Jessica was a passenger who manipulated the controls when the pilot determined that it was safe for her to do so. I understand the public's concern about the circumstances of Jessica's death; however, I believe they are misplaced.
Currently, the FARs are very clear about who is eligible to be a pilot. Individuals younger than 16 years of age cannot be a licensed student pilot, which is the entry level, if you will, of student training. The next step is recreational pilots. They have to be 17 years of age. Clearly, Jessica was not eligible to even be a student pilot. Although Jessica had taken about 35 hours of flight instruction before her cross-country flight, she could not lawfully operate that aircraft without a flight instructor.
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I'm a flight instructor. I'm a pilot. I have just short of 8,000 hours. I have been a flight instructor for a little over 20 years and so I can assure you that the students don't make those critical flight decisions. The pilot-in-command or the flight instructor is the one who has makes them.
I contend that if the flight instructor was doing what he was supposed to be doing under the current regulations, that this action would have occurred the same way, even if Jessica had not been in the airplane.
I appreciate the balance that you and the members of the general aviation community have tried to reach in H.R. 3267, the Child Pilot Safety Act. As I read the bill, the intent is to stop the current practice of non-pilots from manipulating the controls of any airplane in an attempt to set an aeronautical record.
In no way do I want to be critical of your efforts. I don't think it's necessary because current regulations are sufficient to address the concern. However, H.R. 3267 might serve to focus attention on the potential danger of pressuring students to set aeronautical records.
I'm in both the NAA and the ''Guiness Book of Records'' on a flight that I made around the world. I know a little bit about those records and how they are set.
If you will allow, just very briefly, I'd like to review for you the pertinent regulations that I believe address this tragedy and are currently in our laws.
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14 CFR Part 1 defines pilot-in-command as ''the pilot responsible for the potential operation and safety of an aircraft during flight time.''
In part 6183, a student pilot is defined as at least 16 years of age.
Part 6187 prohibits a student pilot from acting as pilot-in-command of an aircraft that is carrying a passenger.
Furthermore, part 6193 stipulates that a student pilot may not operate an aircraft in a solo cross-country flight.
As these regulations show, there are sufficient safeguards in place. Jessica could not have been the pilot-in-command because she was too young. If she had had a student license, she could not have been the pilot-in-command because there was a passenger aboardher father. Finally, if she had had a student pilot license, she could not have made a solo cross-country flight.
Although the NTSB has not come out with their report, I suggest, from what I have looked at, that when they do they will say this was gross pilot error on the part of the pilot in the airplane, the only pilot in the airplane, the flight instructor.
Mr. DUNCAN. Senator, I apologize, but we've got a little less than 5 minutes left in a vote now, so we're going to have to break.
Page 20 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Senator INHOFE. Let me just go ahead. You go ahead and vote and let me just finish this up just for the record, if that's all right.
Mr. DUNCAN. Okay.
Senator INHOFE. I'll submit the rest of it for the record.
Mr. DUNCAN. We'll place it in the record.
Senator INHOFE. I would merely say that clearly Jessica was not the pilot. She was the passenger, and this would not have happened if the pilot-in-command had been acting in accordance with the current FAA regulations, and the public needs to know that, and I thank you very much for letting me go first.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you. I'm sorry that we have to cut you a little short. We'd be glad to have you come back any time.
Senator INHOFE. You missed some of the best part, but you can get that by reading it.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
Senator INHOFE. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. We'll be in recess.
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Mr. DUNCAN. We'll call the subcommittee back to order at this time.
Before we proceed with Mr. Lightfoot's testimony, I would like to call on the ranking member of the full committee and the former, for many years, chairman of this subcommittee, Mr. Oberstar, for any statement he wishes to make at this time.
Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Again, thank you for holding these hearings. I think this is a most timely and appropriate issue. It's an appropriate issue and an appropriate time in the consideration of this issue to hold a hearing and to consider the legislation you and Mr. Lipinski have introduced.
I have spent a good deal of the last decade-plus on aviation issues, and particularly on aviation safety issues. I have talked to numerous people about aviation safety. We've had a number of hearings. I think this subcommittee can take great pride in the bipartisan work that it has accomplished in the interest of aviation safety.
But occasionally we found stories about the youngest child flying across the Atlantic or flying across the United States, and questions were raised about the legality, as well as the wisdom and practicality of allowing children to attempt to set aviation records. The questions and the concerns always fell off a few days after the conclusion of a successful flight.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Our circumstance today is different. We meet in the wake of a tragedy. We've learned that a new record and a happy ending are not always a foregone conclusion in these matters. Had Jessica Dubroff landed safely in Massachusetts live on the ''Today Show'' as planned, we would have marveled at the feat, even though we may have questioned the judgment of the adults involved.
Rather, we now look back at a take-off on ''Good Morning America'' and the interviews that she, her father, and her flight instructor gave until moments before their tragic deaths. We cannot help but view that endeavor as a spectacle that was dangerous, exploitative, and avoidable.
The public outcry to prevent other children from meeting Jessica's fate has been enormous. And, understandable as that reaction is, I think we need to keep our focus on what is right and what is appropriate and what the real circumstances were in that tragic occurrence.
Jessica was not the pilot-in-command of that flight. The decision to take off in bad weather at high altitude under terrible conditions was not Jessica's. It was the decision of the pilot-in-commanda flight instructor, no lesswho decided, notwithstanding an overweight aircraft, bad weather, high altitude, insufficient lift, bad winds, and rain, that a record was more important than the lives of all those in that aircraft, including his own.
We should not focus legislation on children, but on the adults.
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I don't know how you can legislate judgment into people's minds. You do that by training and by experience. And we should not make children, we should not make the thousands of Young Eagles all across this country, the young children learning to fly, learning the excitement of flight, to think that they can never have their hands on controls. There are ways for them to do that. There are simulators. There are training experiences. They should not be conducted, however, under the stress and duress and pressure of public spotlight of setting a record.
The FAA has all the authority it needs to prevent or to put in place regulation to prevent such occurrences, or to put flight instructors and flight schools and all private pilots through a training or retraining or re-awakening process about the importance of existing rules.
If I have any fault to say of the FAA, it's that, from the very outset of knowing all the publicity that this event had, somebody out there should have put a phone call into this instructor and said, ''Remember your responsibilities.''
But the FAA can't watch every pilot and every situation. There are those high-visibility cases which are now the subject of the legislation, Mr. Chairman, that you and Mr. Lipinski have introduced.
The very first paragraph of the organic act of the FAA enacted in 1958 directs the FAA to maintain safety at the highest possible levelnot safety at the margins, not only that safety that airlines and pilots could afford, but safety at the highest possible level. That is its responsibility, and it is our responsibility to see that they undertake that role with every effort and resource at their command.
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Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. Oberstar.
Vice Chairman Weller.
Mr. WELLER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Let me begin by commending you for your leadership and on scheduling this important hearing on a very important issue of child aviation safety.
We're here today, in part, because of a grave tragedy that occurred when a 7-year-old attempted to become the youngest pilot ever to traverse the United States. At age 7, little Jessica Dubroff had her whole life ahead of her. Today, many wonder whether she perhaps should have been thinking about Girl Scout activities or Little League baseball, not seeing if she could go down in the record books as the youngest pilot to fly across the United States.
The purpose of the hearing is to take testimony on H.R. 3267, which I join Chairman Duncan in cosponsoring, the Child Pilot Safety Act, which requires any person attempting to set a record with an aircraft to hold a valid pilot certificate.
This bill will also require the FAA to come up with guidelines on any additional conditions and restrictions that should be placed on children flying in the cockpit of an aircraft.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC According to current FAA rules, in order to be eligible for a student pilot certificate, a person must be at least 16 years of age, but there is nothing in the current FAA regulations that prohibit a person under the minimum age requirement from manipulating the controls of an aircraft when accompanied by a qualified pilot or a certified flight instructor.
We must prevent these tragedies from occurring ever again. We cannot undo the tragedies that have already occurred, but we can work to prevent senseless tragedies like that of Jessica Dubroff from ever occurring in the future.
Again, Mr. Chairman, I want to commend you for your leadership and your efforts on this issue. It's an issue of life and death, and it's also a basic issue of safe skies.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Weller.
Mrs. KELLY. Mr. Chairman, I have no opening statement. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. LaHood.
Mr. LAHOOD. No statement, Mr. Chairman.
Page 26 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much.
I had already mentioned in my opening statement how pleased I am to have our colleague, Mr. Lightfoot, with us. I appreciate very much his cosponsorship of this legislation. He has worked so closely with us on many aviation-related issues.
At this time, Mr. Lightfoot, I appreciate your being here today, and you may begin your testimony.
TESTIMONY OF HON. JIM LIGHTFOOT, A REPRESENTATIVE IN CONGRESS FROM IOWA
Mr. LIGHTFOOT. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And thanks to all the subcommittee for the opportunity to appear today to discuss H.R. 3267, the Child Pilot Safety Act.
I think H.R. 3267 represents an appropriate Federal response to Jessica Dubroff's tragic plane crash. I use the word ''appropriate'' because, although the crash was a tragedy, investigation is likely to show what it normally does in these types of situationsthe crash was a direct result of poor judgment exercised by the pilot-in-command rather than any flaw in existing Federal air regulations.
That's why I'm pleased to be here in support of H.R. 3267. I think this bill does not take a Draconian approach to the Wyoming tragedy; instead, it places the focus where it belongson the pilot-in-command. It's always easy to take an emotional reaction to an emotional event when, quite frankly, you need to use a calm, cool head and a little common sense.
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Mr. Chairman, at this point I would like to take off my Congressional hat for a moment and put on another one that we've worn for a lot of years, and that is of a certified flight instructor. I think Senator Inhofe, who was here beforewe may be the only two commercial pilots who serve in Congress, and I think we're the only two flight instructors.
I think part of what has been lost in this situation is the fact that Jessica was not flying that airplane. The pilot-in-command was a certified flight instructor sitting in the right-hand seat. And, unfortunately, I think peoplewe're subjects of our own environment, so we immediately think, ''Gee, we don't let 7-year-old kids drive cars.'' Well, it's an entirely different situation in an aircraft.
Even in the most-sophisticated driver training car, all you have is a cheater brake. In an aircraft that two people can operate, you're required by law to have fully-functioning dual controls. That pilot-in-command can take it away from that other individual at any time.
I don't think this point can be emphasized enough. Jessica was a passenger, as was her father.
If the National Transportation Safety Board ultimately finds fault in the crash, I think the permanent record will show the CFI, the certified flight instructor, is the responsible person, not a 7-year-old girl.
That's why I think we should all endorse the approach that's taken by H.R. 3267.
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The focus here is not to limit a young person's interest in aviation with what I feel would ultimately be an unenforceable law, but also venture to say that, had that crash resulted in just injuries, and when all the hearings were over and the FAA had taken action, the action would have been taken against the flight instructor. He's the one who would have lost his certificate and/or been fined or penalized in some way. Jessica and her father would have gone on their way, because, once again, the instructor was responsible for the safety of the aircraft.
Somewhat unique for Washington, D.C., I think, H.R. 3267 seeks to address the problemthat is, young people being placed in potentially dangerous situations in pursuit of some sensational, and, I might also add, as several people have, not officially-recognized record attempt. No one would have recognized that record other than the television networks. I guess maybe that gives it validity. In my mind it doesn't.
I think that's why groups such as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and the National Airport Transportation Association all support this bill. In fact, I would hope the Federal Aviation Administration would not wait for the legislation to become law, but proceed to implement the thrust of the bill by an emergency Federal air regulation.
Mr. Chairman, let me close by commending you and Mr. Lipinski for developing this legislation. The first and easiest approach would have been to prohibit children from manipulating the controls of an aircraft until a certain age. I think that would have been going in the wrong direction and exactly the wrong approach to take.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Your bill identifies the problem and provides the right solution.
One final thing, as a flight instructor, even though you're not in the aircraft, you're still responsible for a student. If I sign someone off for a cross-country flight, they, in essence, are flying on my certificate, and if they make a mistake and they have an accident, they lose nothing, because at that point they have nothing other than a medical certificate. I could lose my license in the process.
So, once again, I don't think we can over-emphasize too much that any bad decision that was made was made by Mr. Reid, the instructor in this particular situation.
In closing, putting my Congressional hat back on again, I'd like to assure the subcommittee of my strong support for this bill. I'll be pleased to do anything I can to help win swift approval here in the House of Representatives and would welcome any questions.
Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Lightfoot.
Since we have a chance to discuss these matters with our colleagues on frequent occasions, I generally just suggest that we don't have any questions for our colleagues at this time so that we can move on to other witnesses, but if anybody has any questions at this time for Mr. Lightfoot we can go ahead.
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Mr. DUNCAN. We know you have a very busy schedule, so we'll let you go ahead and go at this time, and we'll go ahead and call up the next panel.
Thank you very much.
Mr. LIGHTFOOT. Thank you for the good work.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
Senator Inhofe and Congressman Lightfoot were included in the Members forum, and panel number one, the first panel, will consist of: James K. Coyne, who is the president of the National Air Transportation Association; Mr. Edward W. Stimpson, who is president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; and Mr. Phil Boyer, who is President of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.
Gentleman, we thank all three of you for being here. You've been with us before, and we appreciate your expertise and your active participation in the affairs of this subcommittee.
I believe we'll just startwe'll generally go in this direction, and so, Mr. Boyer, we'll start with you, please.
TESTIMONY OF JAMES K. COYNE, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL AIR TRANSPORTATION ASSOCIATION; EDWARD W. STIMPSON, PRESIDENT, GENERAL AVIATION MANUFACTURERS ASSOCIATION; AND PHIL BOYER, PRESIDENT, AIRCRAFT OWNERS AND PILOTS ASSOCIATION LEGISLATIVE ACTION
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Mr. BOYER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
As you know, I represent AOPA Legislative Action, which has over 340,000 dues-paying members, and that organization works on behalf of all of the general aviation pilots in this countrythat's some 650,000.
First of all, we know we're here to discuss a tragedy. Let me, on behalf of all of our members and all pilots, express our sorrow over the loss of the life of young Jessica Dubroff, her father, and Joe Reid. As a matter of fact, Joe Reid was an AOPA member, and I'd like to think, with the love of flying Jessica had, some day she'd have become an AOPA member, also.
We think that the legislation that you've proposed, H.R. 3267, certainly is the most reasonable and measured response to this accident. We believe, hopefully, that most people, after this hearing, will be convinced that this approach is the one that we should take.
Once againthis is going to sound like a broken record all day todayJessica Dubroff was not the pilot. She was an aircraft passenger given the opportunity to manipulate the controls.
The AOPA and its sister organizationsASF (the Air Safety Foundation), and Legislative Actionhave consistently refused to encourage, endorse, or sponsor this sort of activity. Going through the list, Ms. Danner, that you recited, we're on that list and have been for the last decade.
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And I must tell you, with this many members, many of them have children or students that they have written us and wanted us to support, sponsor in some way, write up in our magazine, and we have consistently refused.
As a matter of fact, I remember one that said, ''I'm dropping my membership and I'm going to tell all my students not to join because you're not encouraging this sort of activity which encourages youth.''
It's been a difficult situation. Part of our concern was this sort of tragedy and the external pressure brought against a certified flight instructor due to the activities of such a flight. A cross-country flight is far different than taking a young person up for an orientation flight. There's terrain, there's weather conditions, there are unusual airport conditions. All of these factors it certainly looks like were in this particular flight.
We believe that your bill placing an age limit on those who are trying to set a record is truly the right way to go.
You know, there was a lot of pressure on our member, Joe Reid, and it was probably because of an ambitious father in the back and a young student flying in the front seat, a young passenger.
But let's think back 1 week earlier where there was another air accident, another tragedy, and there was a lot of pressure on two very experienced pilots in the front of a military version of the 737, the flight on which our Secretary of Commerce, Ron Brown, was tragically killed. Was there pressure on those pilots to get that high-ranking official into an airport in bad weather with limited nav aids? Absolutely. And in most cases accidents are caused by judgment errors.
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You know, we believe that there has been a tremendous misconception of an airplane in term of this idea of, ''Well, if you wouldn't let a 7-year-old drive a car, and you certainly wouldn't let a 7-year-old get on a tractor,'' but we must understand that this airplane and all of today's modern aircraft are equipped with dual controls, and it was actually the flight instructorsomeone who has been trained to fly a plane with a student pilot, a young person or an old person, in perhaps the pilot's seat; somebody who has gone through four FAA written exams, taken four FAA flight tests, and the last one under the aegis of a certified or designated examiner from the Agency.
Just to drive the point home, let me transport you by videotape to the cockpit of today's single-engine plane. As a matter of fact, this is a cockpit of the same model airplane that young Jessica, her father, and Joe Reid were killed in.
Mr. BOYER. You know, exposing young people to the responsibility, the technical skills, the fun, the challenge of flying is an excellent way to build interest in aerospace careers, in science classes, in math, and other academic endeavors.
There are many established programsyou've heard them here today. You mentioned some, Chairman Duncan, in your opening remarkswhich introduce young people in a controlled and responsible environment. Those include the Explorer Scouts, the EAA Young Eagles, the Civil Air Patrol.
Page 34 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Now, I'd like to call attention to a program that gives students a flying start. It started right in this area. As a matter of fact, someone you all know was very instrumental in promoting this particular program. And this program, Opportunity Skyways, primarily for disadvantaged and minority youth, has promoted many careers and opportunities in aviation.
You know what they hold out for the 13- to 18-year-olds that are involved in this program? They hold out a flight in a light airplane if you are able to successfully complete a high school course, get through with good grades, etc.
I'm pleased to show you someone who about 4 years ago was in this picture. He was going to drop out of high school. He was turned on because he was promoted to finish a course correctly so that he could ride in a light plane and manipulate the controls, and he's here today with us.
I'd like to introduce you to Francis Orphe, who not only completed high school, but has now gone forward and will be working on a computer science degree as a sophomore at the University of Maryland. As a matter of fact, he's studying avionics software, and I know our representative from the FAA would probably be one that might want to hire him, because we've had a lot of work on this committee about some of the avionic software problems at the FAA.
This program and others will still continue if your legislation goes through and we don't put an age limit on allowing someone to fly with a private pilot or better.
You know, it still remains that children are at risk on highways today. Some 50 each weekend are killed in accidents. But our aviation system is the safest in the world, and whatever we do in response to this accident we should do it right. We should not make a snap decision dictated by all the media hype, and that's what the world's largest aviation organization, AOPA, along with its affiliates, the Safety Foundation and Legislative Action, would like to use this accident, this tragic accident in Cheyenne, and we pledge to this committee that, in addition to the support of your bill, we will work with the industry and other organizations to educate pilots to the safe operation of an aircraft while demonstrating to a non-pilot of any age, but particularly a youth.
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We'll also work, because we are the largest supplier of the revalidation clinic for flight instructors, such as Joe Reid, to bring this up as a course module in our continuing studies that we offer to some 8,000 flight instructors a year. Together with your thoughtful legislation, our effort will help to ensure good judgment, we believe, in the interest of safety, which is always the highest priority in flying.
Thank you for letting me go a little overtime, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. DUNCAN. That's all right.
Mr. BOYER. Obviously, we'll be happy to answer any questions.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Boyer.
Mr. STIMPSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, members of the committee, for introducing and cosponsoring this important legislation. GAMA, which represents 51 manufacturers of aircraft engines and avionics thinks this is a very reasonable approach to this important situation.
We also commend this committee for not over-reacting to this unfortunate accident. Your legislation strikes a very good, reasonable balance in addressing the problem.
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We, too, are concerned about publicity stunts, whether they're done by children or people of any age in airplanes. In fact, our members, like Mr. Boyer indicated, have been approached on a number of occasions to sponsor such activities and have continuously declined. They, too, have made their customers unhappy in certain instances.
Your legislation does several very important things. One, it requires a pilot's license and a medical certificate for any record-setting flight. Two, it places the responsibility where it should be, on the flight instructor. And, three, it recognizes that you cannot legislate good judgment.
All of the organizations at this table are currently involved in a program called Team 2000 to attract more people into aviation. Last year we had fewer student pilots than any time since World War II. The extensive research which has been done on this situation indicates that people who learn to fly, whether they are 16, 20, 30, 40, 70 years old, all have gotten that bug normally at a very young age. Consequently, it would be a shame to do something which is going to affect the very fine programs of the Young Eagles, the CAP, and others.
I wish your colleague, Congressman Jim Kolbe, was here this afternoon, because I was with him in Tucson a week ago Saturday night and spoke with a man by the name of Robin Stoddard, who has started a program in Tucson which has been expanded to three other States in the United States called Wright Flight. This program is very much like the one that was just explained to you, and it ties in the experience of flight, the love of aviation, with grades in academic achievement.
Page 37 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Stoddard's program has touched about 4,000 young people. He was telling me about a young Hispanic woman who had dropped out of high school. She was exposed to Wright Flight. She signed a contract that if she did better in grades and school she would be allowed to take a flight in an airplane. She took that flight. She has now gone on, not only graduated, but also has her private pilot's license.
There are literally hundreds of cases of this sort where the airplane has been used as an important tool for young people.
Again, your bill does not affect these programs, but it allows children, and young people, to experience flight as passengers, not the pilot-in-command.
We urge this committee to work further on this constructive legislation so the excellent safety record in aviation may be maintained, while at the same time, it will not negatively impact the experience of flight.
Thank you very much.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Stimpson.
Mr. COYNE. Mr. Chairman, it's a great pleasure for me to be with you again representing the National Air Transportation Association, which includes among its nearly 2,000 members hundreds of organizations, companies around the country that provide flight training.
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I might like to begin my testimony, if I may, by just asking that my written testimony be submitted for the record, and respond more personally, if I can, on behalf of the feelings of our hundreds of members across the country who have written to us to provide input for this committee hearing.
In fact, just a few days after this tragedy occurred in mid-April, we faxed our members across the country and asked for their response, and literally hundreds and hundreds of flight school owners and operators and instructors took the time to write and respond.
One of them I think accurately sums up the opinion of most of these really professional flight instructors across the country. It's somebody who lives not too far from your home District. It's from Asheville, North Carolina. A gentleman writes, ''I do not believe any person who is not a certified student should be allowed to attempt a record-setting flight. Any person, be they parent, CFI, or pilot-in-command, should be prosecuted if they knowingly participate in such an endeavor.''
This was written several days before you developed your bill, so I think it suggests that the intent of what you have done is broadly shared and agreed to by the professional flight training community across the country.
In these hundreds of letters that they wrote to me, the same questions kept coming up. One is: why was there so much attention and fascination given to this record-setting effort in the first place? What influence did all this attention have on the real pilot-in-command? And is this bill, H.R. 3267, the appropriate response? Will it contribute to solving the problem that exists?
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Let me address each of those questions.
First, it's clear that the fascination over this flight reflected a public paradox about aviation. On the one hand, those in the press who were covering the flight seemed to be saying, ''Isn't flying so easy that a 7-year-old can do it?'' And, on the other hand, the press was saying, ''But don't we all know that flying an aircraft requires such judgment, how can there be a 7-year-old with such judgment, such skill?'' This was, it seems to me, the core paradox that much of the public fascination seems to reflect.
Clearly, flying an airplane today with the modern equipment and the highly-skilled training environments that exist at most airports has made learning to fly an airplane easier than ever before. And I don't want to quite say that it's so easy a 7-year-old can do it, but it is something that virtually all Americans can experience if they have the will and the motivation.
On the other hand, it is definitely true that judgment is required for a good pilot to succeed. In a sense, every single day is judgment day in aviation. We've heard this word over and over again today. And the pilot in this aircraft, the pilot-in-command, the flight instructor, clearly had flawed judgment that morning in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Why did that occur?
Well, it seems to me that, when we look at the second question: what influence did all of this publicity, this fascination with this so-called record attemptas we all know, it wasn't really a record in anybody's bookthis clearly influenced the judgment of the pilot-in-command.
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I think he becameand I know this may be a harsh word to use, but I think he became drunk with the publicity, drunk with the potential for fame, as all the rest of them were. Or maybe he was just influenced by the pressures that were put on him by others.
When we become influenced by so much publicity, it colors our judgment just as alcohol does. And, of course, our Government has rules, the FAA has rules, that restrict the use of alcohol among pilots. It seems to me this bill is essentially trying to do the same thingto prohibit or to make it harder for someone to become drunk with publicity-seeking. My hope is that you look at this bill in that light.
This is an effort that I feel is a very, very appropriate response dealing with the true flaw herethat there were, in fact, artificial pressures put upon the pilot-in-command that influenced his judgment negatively, leading to careless errors that led to a tragic occurrence.
For that reason, I hope that you'll continue to have this positive response and turn, I hope, a cautious ear to those who suggest perhaps more Draconian responses that don't understand the underlying causes in this particular accident.
We hope that the public will come to learn that flying is easy to do, that it does take careful judgment, and that maybe we should look at the mediaespecially the television organizations that were almost like the bartender that served one too many drinks to somebody who was already over-served.
Page 41 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC It seems to me that this bill deals responsibly and effectively with those concerns, and those of us with NAT and those of us in the community support you for the effort that you've made.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much, Mr. Coyne.
I know Ms. Danner has another meeting to go to, and we're going to go first for questions to her.
Ms. DANNER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I really regret that I have to leave in 5 minutes. As I said to you, only two things would call me away from this meetinga vote on the floor or a command performance at the White House. Obviously, it's the latter, although it may end up being the former.
I would say that it is very heartening to know that we seem to have unanimity with regard to this issue. I think that we are all talking about the same problem, and that's the problem of publicity-seekers. And if we can address that problemand I think we all agree that we do in this piece of legislationthen I think that we can put an end to this ridiculous record-seeking that not only caused death to three people, but could have caused death to many more individuals in that that plane could have crashed in a school yard.
So I think that it's very, very important that we move forward rapidly with this legislation. I know all of us here on this panel very much appreciate the support you and your people are going to provide us.
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Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Ms. Danner.
We do have a vote going on on the floor, so what we'll do is we'll stop right at this moment, but we'll be back very shortly to proceed with questions.
Mr. DUNCAN. We will call the subcommittee back to order.
I want to say that I certainly appreciate the testimony of all of the witnesses.
Let me first say thatand I think that most of you have covered this in your testimony, but what we were trying to do and are trying to do in this legislation is to respond to a very strong opinion or feeling or desire among the general public to put some restrictions on the type of thing that young Jessica was involved in, and yet not so over-regulate or over-react that we stop young people from flying altogether. That's the balance that we have tried to achieve in this legislation.
I know Secretary Peña called me a few days ago to discuss this legislation and to express his concern and the feeling that he thought was so strong among the general public that we put some kind of restrictions on this type of activity.
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I appreciate your support.
Mr. Boyer, do you think we have achieved this balance without over-reacting or going too far?
Mr. BOYER. We would not support the legislationI think if you'll go back to the media coverage we all discussed, the sound bite was my saying, ''We don't need a knee-jerk reaction in Congress to over-regulate this. The regulations cover it,'' and then they coupled that with your sound bite that said, ''We will look into this as a responsible committee and introduce some legislation.''
The reason we can sit here supporting your legislation is this addresses the tragedy in Cheyenne, but it doesn't go beyond that and try to place additional regulations on top of ones from the FAA that we feel are already adequate.
Mr. DUNCAN. But you also do recognize that there is this strong feeling among the general public that we should do something?
Mr. BOYER. Absolutely.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Mr. Coyne, you represent many flight instructors. Do many flight instructors receive a large portion of their income from young people wanting to learn to fly? And what effect would it have on them if we put some sort of ironclad minimum agelet's say if we came in with the 16-year-old age limit, or something to that effect. What effect would that have on your members?
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Mr. COYNE. Well, Ed Stimpson mentioned some research that has recently been done among pilots and the general public, and it is crystal clear that those people who become pilots, a very significant portion, if not an overwhelming majority of them, develop what we in the industry call a love affair with aviation at a very early age.
Every single flight instructor knows the experience ofperhaps this is a derogatory termof what some of us call airport bums. Perhaps that would be the most appropriate termyoung men and women who come to airports, hang around the hangar, say, ''Isn't there anything I can do? Can I help wash the airplane? Will you let me just touch it? Will you let me watch you take off? Can I go for a ride? Please give me a ride.''
We all know that if you took the thousands and tens of thousands of commercial pilots who fly our Nation's airlines and our charter flights and our emergency helicopters and all the others and asked them when they first became interested in flying, I would guess that less than 10 percent of them would say after the age of 14. I would think the overwhelming majority would sayof course, people our age will say, ''I dreamed of flying when I first saw Sky King back in the 1950s as a young boy or young girl,'' and I think the same thing is true today.
Aviation has a magical experience, magical draw to young people. It always will. And if they are discouraged by our Government or by others who say, ''No, no, this is something you just can't do,'' I think it would be a tremendous crime.
Mr. DUNCAN. Mr. Stimpson, you mentioned in your testimony that there are fewer student pilots today than any years since World War II. Did I understand you correctly?
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Mr. STIMPSON. Yes. That is correct, Mr. Chairman. Last year, we had around 64,000 or 65,000 new students who started to learn to fly. That is the lowest number in some years.
Mr. DUNCAN. Why is that? It would seem to me, with the huge increase in flying by the general public, that there would be even more people wanting to learn to fly. Why is that?
Mr. STIMPSON. There are a variety of reasons for it. We have come out with a new program to try and attract more people into flying. Some has been cost of flying, some has been time. People are involved in other things. There are any more competing activities today. There is a lack of pilots coming out of the military. The military is not producing the number of pilots they were a few years ago. There are a number of factors which have influenced this.
But the encouraging thing is that there are many people who want to learn to fly in America1.2 million Americans came out of this polling we recently did. If you go to Oshkosh each year, there are nearly a million people in attendance interested in flying. If you look at air shows around the country, there is a lot of interest in flying.
What this program is going to try to do is bring the advantages, let them know where flight schools are, like other industries have done, whether it's been skiing, boating, or whatever.
Page 46 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, gentlemen.
Phil, when you were showing that video on the screen over there, you were talking about the dual controls. I have a question in regards toif Jim and I are flying and we're both holding onto the controls and they are dual controls, ifand I mean this very seriously, because I don't understand itif I want to go to the left and he wants to go to the right, who winds up winning? How is this determined? What happens with these dual controls?
Mr. BOYER. Well, I assume one of you is termed a pilot-in-command, as Joe Reid was on this particular flight. And in the pre-flight briefing obviously there is some discussion about
Mr. LIPINSKI. He's the chairman, so he's the pilot.
Mr. BOYER. He's the chairman and certainly the pilot-in-command to us all in aviation in this committee.
And Jim would say, ''I would like you to keep a light touch on the controls,'' as pilot-in-command.
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Now, you bring up a good point. With children this really isn't a problem. It could be that a 250-pound weight lifter who's the student in the seat might overcome a small 160-pound lightweight flight instructor in terms of gripping the controlsit's not a common occurrenceand not allowing maneuvering of it.
In the case of children, though, there isn't the force needed to exertlet's say a 7-year-old suddenly freezing on the controls is not a factor whatsoever.
And remember that part of the flight instructor training is also training in order to fly from the right seat to overcome these kinds of things, and part of the check ride they go through with the FAA is to properly demonstrate they can handle the person with their hands on the controls in the other seat.
Mr. LIPINSKI. But say he and I were of the same strength and say it waswe hadn't decided who the pilot was. There could be a problem if an emergency came.
When you're talking about children, obviously almost any adult is going to be able to control the controls over a child. But if he's the pilot, he's teaching me how to fly, and we come to an emergency situation, there could be a problem if I choose to go left and he chooses to go right. And I don't mean that in the political sense.
Page 48 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BOYER. It would be highly unusual in the particular case that you just brought up, but absolutely there could be a problem, but once again there are remedies. You quickly distract the pilot with his grasp on the controls, and things that a flight instructor has often had to do when an adult student perhaps freezes up.
Let's not forget that we can look at any mode of transportation. I could be sitting in your car, using the same example, and you could be driving, and I could grasp that wheel very tightly from the passenger seat and not allow you to maneuver it, so we're talking about, once again, common sense, judgment, and the dynamics of the situation.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Would it be practical and would it be feasible to have some kind of switch installed in planes or manufactured into planes where the person in charge, the pilot, would be able to cut off the responsibility of the student pilot?
Mr. BOYER. Absolutely not. I mean, anything's possible technically. Adding a switch like that I think would change the history of the dual controls on an airplane, which have probably in many cases saved more lives than created problems or a tragedy like we saw in Cheyenne, particularly as we look towards air carrier aircraft where you carry a two-person crew.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I wasn't going to be advocating it for commercial aviation. I was simply talking about when you have a student pilot and you have an instructor. My question is: is it feasible? And if it is feasible to do so, would it be practical? By that I mean: would the cost prohibitive to do something like that?
Page 49 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. BOYER. As a pilot, I would like to defer to the people who make these planes, if I could.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Certainly.
Mr. STIMPSON. I think, Mr. Lipinski, a more practical solution is the communication between the flight instructor and his student. The flight instructor will say, ''I'll take it.'' In all instances this is communication, and a good flight instructor will not over-tax his student.
But to put a control in I think would be almost impossible and expensive and difficult and probably very negative from a safety standpoint. In that cockpit between instructor and student is the key to safety.
Mr. LIPINSKI. I realize that. I'm just talking about an emergency situation where the student pilot might freeze.
Mr. COYNE. I think in actual experience the vast majority of responses from students in these kinds of situations is not to grab the controls and try to control, but rather to say, ''Hey, you take it,'' and to release controls and have the instructor suddenly find himself responsible for controlling the airplane. That's more frequently the experience, not over-controlling.
Page 50 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. STIMPSON. And the words ''I'll take it'' probably are the most important words that the flight instructor can use in a situation.
Mr. COYNE. And the flight instructor is trained to be constantly prepared to take over controls on a moment's notice like that when the student decides, ''Hey, I'm over my head for one reason or another.''
Mr. LIPINSKI. I see that my time is up, but let me just zero in.
It wouldn't be feasible to install any kind of switch? I'm not asking your opinion on whether you think we should do so or not. I just want to know, for my own information, would it be feasible or not to install some kind of cut-off of the student pilot's controls.
Mr. COYNE. My opinion is that the integrity of the flight control system, which is an entirely linked and very, verythe most critical system of the aircraftthe cables, the various bell rods, all of the other things that control the flight controls. To put in some kind of interrupt, although it is feasible, it would raise more problems by far and risks of uncertainty than I think it would solve.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you.
Mr. Chairman, my time's up. In the second round I'll have a few other questions. Thank you.
Page 51 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much.
Mr. LAHOOD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
With all due respect to our chairman and our ranking member, who I have a very high regard for, as I know all of you do, do any of you really believe that we need this legislation?
Mr. LAHOOD. Somebody has to be first.
Mr. COYNE. I'll be happy to. I think this legislation is, in fact, needed because it deals with what has become a new problem that wasn't perhaps foreseen 10 or 15 years ago, and that is the problem of unusual amounts of publicity-seeking and the attention that the media gives to these what I consider artificial records. This has created a new, previously not very widely known risk factor to the judgment of the pilot-in-command.
This legislation will, just as legislation that makes it illegal for a pilot to take a drinkthis legislation removes this new judgment discouragement factor or judgment reducing factor.
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Beyond this, however, beyond this record-seeking element of it, I think all of us would agree that additional legislation is not necessary and that we wouldn't be here if we did not believe that this legislation was appropriate, given the public's interest in this issue, the political interest, and the reality that, in fact, the press, in my mind, is not going to change.
If we all thought that the television networks were going to become more responsible and deal with these things more responsibly, then it wouldn't be needed. But I think as long as they do create these artificial pressures, they, in fact, intoxicate the parents and others on these occasions to lead people to make very unwise, improper judgmental decisions.
Mr. STIMPSON. I suppose this could be done by rule-making with the Administrator instead of legislation, but it's obviously become a matter of great national attention. The committee has responded with an answer, and I think it's an appropriate answer. This is certainly a situation that has not existed until rather recent times.
For those reasons we are supporting this legislation, though we'd rather have rule-making normally handled through the administrative process. I think all of us would agree to that.
But, as we've all testified, we certainly have no objections and do support this legislation.
Mr. BOYER. In almost 99 out of 100 cases I can think of in which there have been some tragedies and then a cry, we have come out against a change if we felt that the rules adequately handled it.
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In this case I have to turn the question back to you: is this reasonable? Can we live with this? Absolutely.
The hue and cry seems to be coming from your constituents. My constituents are pilots. We understand the rules of the FAA. We try to fly by them and abide by them. Obviously, there are times when we exercise bad judgment.
But if your constituents, if the American public are saying, ''You've got to protect us. That plane could have gone down in a yard or something,'' then this is that case in which we can support.
Mr. LAHOOD. Do any of you believe that when this bill is passed and signed by the PresidentI know that you don't believe this, but I'd like to hear you say that youyou don't believe that this is going to prevent the kind of accident that happened? I mean, let's face it, if the young womanif the accident had not occurred, we would not be holding this hearing. Mr. Duncan and Mr. Lipinski would not have introduced this bill. So is this going to prevent anything?
Mr. COYNE. I think it's fair to say that this will put pressure on pilots, certified pilots and flight instructors, when they are approached by someone for a publicity-stunt, as this pilot was approached by the father of Jessica. I think this legislation will reduce the likelihood that certified pilots would be willing to risk their careers and their lives just to help some publicity seeker get his 15 minutes of fame.
Page 54 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I think that this will definitely have an effect on flight instructors. When they see this is the law of the land, frankly, many of them would be happy to be able to have the backup of the law so that they can say no to some over-zealous parent.
Now, I'm not saying that this legislation is going to stop all aircraft accidents, because there will always be situations where pilots exercise bad judgment. We cannot legislate judgment, but we can try to reduce those factors that destroy it in otherwise appropriately judgmental people.
Mr. STIMPSON. And without question I think this will put a stop to these record-setting flights. Mr. Boyer and I have had the conversation over the years that this was just a tragedy waiting to happen sometime in one of these accidents where we had these record-making attempts.
From that standpoint, this particular problem should be stopped.
Mr. BOYER. As I stated in my testimony, the flight instructor on this flight was a member of AOPA. This legislation definitely codifies what Congress and the FAA would think of this kind of action and literally takes away the kinds of things Ed and I have to face, and that's telling our members, ''No, we don't want to sponsor or put our name on the side of your aircraft.'' If Jessica had made it, I guess it would have been a 5-year-old then that would have been trying for a similar type of record.
Mr. LAHOOD. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Page 55 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you, Mr. LaHood.
Ms. BROWN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Ranking Member for sponsoring this. I want to personally thank you. I think this is something that's really needed.
I have another question pertaining to the weather condition because I fly every weekend. I'm wondering if should there be regulations added for flight instructors when the weather conditions are questionable because of cloudiness or a storm? Should there be regulations that address weather conditions in some way?
Mr. BOYER. Well, the regulations now stipulate the kind of weather conditions that a pilot may fly in based on his rating or certificate level. In this particular case, the flight instructor was instrument rated, was not an instrument flight instructor, and my understandingand the FAA might elaborate on thisis that he asked for a special kind of clearance to get out of weather that was marginalwhat we call ''visual flight rules''and obtained such a clearance.
It's not the typical kind of weather that a person would take a student up flying. But, once again, the judgment of the flight instructor was affected probably by the push to complete this feat, and I think this bill very adequately takes away that kind of decision-making because he wouldn't have been pushed in this case.
Ms. BROWN. So at this time you don't think conditions should be a part of the legislation?
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Mr. BOYER. No, I do not believe so. I think the regulations of the FAA already adequately cover that.
Mr. STIMPSON. And I would agree with Mr. Boyer on that.
Mr. COYNE. I would agree wholeheartedly.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much, Ms. Brown.
Gentlemen, let me just ask you this: have any of your organizations ever sponsored or endorsed or in any way encouraged any of these type of aviation stunts or contests involving childrenrecord-setting attempts, anything like this?
Mr. COYNE. In our case, no.
Mr. STIMPSON. No, sir.
Mr. BOYER. In the history I'm aware of with AOPA, absolutely not.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much. We certainly appreciate your testimony. Thank you for being with us.
All right. At this time we're pleased to have with us once again a man who has been here with us many, many times, Mr. David Hinson, the Administrator of the FAA. He's accompanied by Mr. Anthony Broderick.
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I mentioned to Mr. Hinson and Mr. Broderick that I saw you testifying yesterday before the Senate, and the thought occurred to me, I wondered how many times you've had to testify since you have been Administrator before various Congressional committees. It seems like you have to do it almost every day.
Have you ever counted up how many times you've been in front of various committees?
TESTIMONY OF HON. DAVID R. HINSON, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION, ACCOMPANIED BY ANTHONY BRODERICK, ASSOCIATE ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION
Mr. HINSON. Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman. I want to thank the committee for holding the hearing.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you for being with us.
Mr. HINSON. I also understand that before I got here from another meeting that you said some very kind remarks about some of the things that we've been able to do at the FAA, and I just want to make sure, sir, that I'm in the right hearing.
Page 58 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HINSON. In any case, I appreciate those thoughts.
The answer to your question is: in June I will have been here 36 months, approximately, including a couple of months consulting time before I was sworn in, and I think I've had almost 36 hearings. This is my second one this week, and I have another one tomorrow. I guess that's the way it works here, sir.
Mr. DUNCAN. You may proceed with your statement.
Mr. HINSON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Broderick and I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today, but we are obviously saddened that we are here because of a tragic accident that claimed the lives of 7-year-old Jessica Dubroff, her father, and her flight instructor, Mr. Joe Reid.
We must, of course, await the completion of the NTSB's accident investigation to have definitive answers about the cause or causes of this tragedy, but this accident has quite understandably and appropriately caused Congress and the FAA to consider issues associated with non-pilots, particularly young children, in the cockpit, and to closely examine, as well, the efforts of non-pilots to lay claim to flight records by non-pilots.
In fact, immediately following this accident we set in place a review of this issue, as I will describe in a moment, and we are in the process of writing all certified flight instructors to remind them of their safety responsibilities.
Page 59 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me say again, also, that the Administration does not and will not encourage non-pilots of any age to engage in pursuing flight records, since, in the case of non-certified individuals, we view these efforts as more or less non-valuable aeronautical experiences.
Before I address the legislation you recently introduced, Mr. Chairman, let me take a few minutes to highlight the FAA's current regulations on pilots, student pilots, and flight instructors, as well as clear up some misunderstandings that have arisen.
I want to stress that a non-certificated person who may participate in manipulating the controls of an aircraft is not a pilot, but merely a passenger. The experienced, licensed pilot-in-command sitting at the dual controls of that aircraft is the plane's pilot and bears sole responsibility for all aspects of the operation and safety of the aircraft.
In order to serve as the pilot of an aircraft, an individual must, at a minimum, have a student pilot certificate. A student pilot certificate enables a student pilot who has demonstrated appropriate aeronautical knowledge and skills to engage in solo flight that is a prerequisite to receiving a private pilot's certificate.
Part 61 of the FAA's regulations prohibit the issuance of student pilot certificates for the operation of aircraft by persons of less than 16 years of age, except that a student pilot certificate limited to operation of free balloons or gliders may be issued to an individual who is at least 14 years of age.
To receive a private pilot certificate, an individual must have attained the age of 17.
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FAA has consistently denied petitions for exemptions from these age requirements, and we will continue to do so.
To become a licensed pilot, you must be instructed by a properly-licensed flight instructor. The requirements for becoming a certified flight instructor or CFI are considerable. CFIs must renew their certificates every 24 months, and they're eligible for such renewal only after undergoing a refresher course with an FAA-approved curriculum or upon certification by an FAA employee that the CFI is qualified to give instruction.
Almost 60 general aviation organizations offer refresher clinics with curricula individually reviewed by the FAA for completeness, and many CFIs choose to accomplish their renewals in this manner.
Ensuring that CFIs are conducting proper instruction and complying with all FAA regulations is monitored by the FAA as part of our regular inspection program.
Turning to H.R. 3267, Mr. Chairman, I would like to indicate our support for your bill and to compliment you on an approach that addresses the immediate issue raised by the Dubroff tragedy and asks for a thorough review of the broader issues raised by this accident.
H.R. 3267 would prohibit aviation record-setting efforts by persons who do not hold a valid pilot and medical certificate. This legislation reasonably forbids the kind of media-driven record-setting attempts by uncertificated individuals which have rarely achieved the support of responsible segments of the aviation community.
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The bill recognizes that there are structured programs that promote early acquaintance with the art and science of flying, such as the Young Eagles sponsored by the EAA, the Civil Air Patrol programs, and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association's Project Pilot program, which a legislatively-mandated age restriction could affect. These are responsible organizations that do much good for aviation.
H.R. 3267 also envisions a thorough review of the full range of issues associated with the manipulation of the controls of an aircraft by uncertificated personnel. This is consistent with the efforts that are already underway by the FAA.
As I noted earlier, immediately following this accident we acted to set up a review that would fully assess these issues. I have asked the general aviation issues group of the Aviation Rule-Making Advisory Committee, or ARAC, to review efforts by the FAA already initiated.
Working with Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy Frank Kruesi, this group will review existing regulations, guidance, and any relevant accident history, along with any other pertinent materials relative to the manipulation of aircraft controls by non-certificated persons.
The FAA will also work with the issues group and the aviation community to further refine and identify issues related to manipulation of aircraft controls by non-certificated persons, including current practices and the cognitive physical and coordinative capabilities of young children.
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Further, the study will take into account any relevant findings from NTSB accident investigations involving young persons and other non-certificated persons in order to develop appropriate recommendations based upon that review, if warranted.
We expect that the issues group will complete its review of FAA materials related to this issue within the next 2 weeks, and will complete its survey of issues identified by the aviation community shortly thereafter.
Recommendations will be presented to Secretary Peña and to me in June. This represents an acceleration of our initial August 1 date for completion of this review.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, I believe the combined approach of legislatively prohibiting needless record-breaking attempts by non-certificated personnel that bear no relationship to furthering aviation knowledge and skills, in conjunction with a fresh look at the current state of regulations for manipulation of flight controls by such individuals, will produce the information necessary to formulate a well-reasoned response to the concerns to which this tragedy has given rise.
This concludes my prepared statements, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Broderick and I are prepared to answer the committee's questions.
Mr. DUNCAN. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Hinson.
Let me ask you this: I mentioned a short time ago that Secretary Peña, a man for whom I have very great respect, had called me a few days ago and had discussed with me his feeling that perhaps this legislation should go a little further and that possibly it should contain some restrictions on young people being prohibited from manipulating the controls at below altitudes of 2,000 feet so they wouldn't be involved in take-offs and landings, and so forth.
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I know thatI think he said he had discussed this with you, and I think there have been some discussions since that time.
Is it your understanding that your testimony is consistent now with his views on this, or what is the Department's position going to be on this?
Mr. HINSON. The Secretary and I and Mr. Broderick and others in the FAA and DOT have had numerous conversations about the breadth of the issues raised by this circumstance.
The Secretary has raised a number of very legitimate questions. He and I both agree that they are properly answered in the context of a complete review of those issues regarding who should, can, and how manipulate controls with respect to non-pilots or non-certificated personnel.
We do, however, agree with you and the committee that it is appropriate to have legislation that restricts non-certificated personnel from manipulating controls during record-setting attempts.
Mr. DUNCAN. Let me ask you this: I mentioned in my opening statement that the NTSB has provided us with statistics showing that there have been 178 accidents involving pilots of 16 years of age or younger since 1964in other words, in the last 30 years. Do you think this is any kind of problem, or is that of any real concern to you?
Page 64 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. HINSON. Well, of course it's of concern, but I think, like all data, we have to understand the data before we draw any conclusions.
For exampleand Mr. Broderick can add to what I'm about to saythere are issues of airplanes being stolen by young people who are not pilots and yet were attempting to fly. There are issues of accidents in gliders, which may be a part of this statistic. There are a whole host of possibilities that would aggregate the number that you have from the Board.
We would have to evaluate and sort of classify the circumstances of each accident in order to draw some conclusions, and that is part of exactly what we are doing with the study I've directed Mr. Broderick to undertake.
Would you like to
Mr. BRODERICK. I would just add, Mr. Chairman, that quick arithmetic says that's about six accidents a year over the last 30 years. The Administrator mentioned that a number of them that we have seen involved theft of aircraft or something that you couldn't prevent by simple administrative regulations. It's already a crime to do that.
In addition, I'd point out that our research on the accidents indicates that virtually in every case these are relatively minor accidents that are involved in either instructional or glider instructional flying, that don't involve serious damage.
Of course, there is the odd one or two that may, in fact, be a more serious accident, but as a general rule they are accidents that are of a minor nature involving legitimate and perfectly reasonable and legal flying.
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Mr. DUNCAN. There were so many reports that the plane carrying Jessica Dubroff was overloaded. Do you know anything about any of those reports?
Mr. HINSON. Mr. Chairman, the only information I have is essentially what's available to you and to the committee. That's, of course, within the Board's purview, and we have, to the degree requested by the Board, provided technical assistance.
I don't personally have any information, but let me ask Mr. Broderick if he does.
Mr. BRODERICK. No. I think we have a lot of rumors and second-hand information. We'll wait for the Board to complete its thorough and objective evaluation of the accident circumstances.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. I'm going to go now to Mr. Lipinski.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I have no questions. I have just a quick statement to make.
I could never praise Mr. Hinson for his great work at the Federal Aviation Administration, even though he's done a great job over there, because he ran a great airline for many, many years, and, through no fault of his, many reasons wound up putting it out of business, but it's a black, black mark against him in my heart because when he ran that superb airline I could leave my house 15 minutes before departure and catch my flight to Washington, D.C. Now, I have to leave my house an hour and a half before departure in order to catch my flight to Washington, DC.
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Because of that, even though he's been a great FAA Administrator, I can't compliment him on it because it adds too much time to my flying schedule.
But it's always a pleasure seeing you, Dave. Thank you very much for your testimony.
Mr. HINSON. Yes, sir.
Mr. LIPINSKI. Mr. Broderick, Mr. Chairman, I turn it back to you.
Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you very much.
Ms. BROWN. Mr. Chairman, I am still interested in the question about weather condition and how that pilot got the clearance. Mr. Hinson, can you quickly tell me the answer to that?
Mr. HINSON. Yes, I can. I believe, although I don't know specifically the instant circumstance, but, as a rule, a pilot is required to ascertain that the weather is permissible for visual flight rules, in which case they fly, providing their own visual separation from air traffic, or instrument flight rules, in which case they need an air traffic control clearance to make sure that they are separated from other traffic.
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There is a circumstance called ''special VFR,'' which I understand the pilot availed himself of, which allows him to depart in restricted visibility below three miles but still fundamentally VFR, and that requires that air traffic provide a clearance of other potential traffic while this process is underway.
I believe that circumstance existed when this airplane departed Cheyenne.
But, beyond that, common sense would suggest that any pilot operating in that environment would look at the weatherit was raining, I believe, and rather stormyand get enough information. In fact, by Federal Aviation regulations, a pilot is required to do thatto exercise good judgment and determine if, in fact, flight in those conditions would be safe or not.
Now, obviously I don't know how that happened there, but the Board will hopefully find out.
Mr. DUNCAN. All right. Thank you very much. We've got a vote going on and we're going to let you go. This is going to be your shortest appearance ever before this subcommittee.
I thank you, Mr. Hinson. Thank you very much for being with us.
Mr. HINSON. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.
Page 68 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. DUNCAN. Thank you.
Mr. DUNCAN. That concludes the hearing. Thank you.
[Whereupon, at 3:15 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned, to reconvene at the call of the Chair.]