Washington, DC - June 27, 2016 - On the heels of his recent request to the FAA to address a spike in Long Island small plane crashes, and standing at Republic airport, where a small plane just crash landed, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, today, revealed that safety inspections across major New York airports have actually fallen by a staggering 73% in the past 10 years. In response, Schumer, today, called on the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to increase the number of ramp inspections at airports across New York and the country, including the small airports that have been involved in the recent small plane crashes on Long Island.
“Long Island has been plagued with a series of small airplane crashes, yet despite the rising number of plane crashes, the number of airport inspections has fallen,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “This simply defies logic because ensuring safety in the skies requires a steady stream of regulation and safety checks here on the ground – and that is shockingly lacking. By conducting additional ramp inspections, the FAA can do its part in helping to ensure the safety of our skies and neighborhoods.”
Ramp inspections are conducted by the FAA to determine compliance with federal regulations and safe operating practices. Similar to health inspections conducted at local restaurants, ramp inspections conducted at airports can be unscheduled. Schumer today said that over about ten years, the number of ramp inspections at major New York airports dropped 73 percent from 2,849 ramp inspections in 2006 to just 748 ramp inspections in 2015. While there may be no connection between the decrease in ramp inspections and the recent uptick in small plane crashes, Schumer said that the FAA should consider performing additional ramp inspections, particularly at airports served primarily by general aviation aircraft, to ensure that unsafe behaviors or practices are not going unnoticed.
Earlier this year, in light of the alarming uptick in small plane crashes on Long Island, Schumer urged the FAA to launch an in-depth investigation into whether there is a trend in the crashes -- and to determine if additional steps must be taken on Long Island, and elsewhere, to ensure safe skies. Schumer today said that the FAA should also consider increasing the number of ramp inspections at local airports. While increasing the number of ramp inspections is not a silver bullet to ensuring the safety of our skies, these inspections can be a useful tool in ensuring that aircraft operations are performed safely and in accordance with FAA regulations. The FAA is already taking a number of steps to ensure the safety of aircraft operations across the state and country, and Schumer said that additional ramp inspections can serve as another important tool.
This year, there have already been at least eight small plane crashes on Long Island. Comparatively, there were five small plane crashes in all of 2015, six small plane crashes in all of 2014, and four small plane crashes in all of 2013 on Long Island.
In the first half of this year alone, Long Island has witnessed the following small plane crashes:
- On February 12th, a Cessna 152 taking off from Long Island MacArthur Airport caught fire after landing at Calabro Airport in Shirley. The NTSB has determined the probable cause to be the pilot’s failure to maintain adequate terrain clearance while landing, resulting in a collision with a snow berm, nose gear collapse and post impact fire.
- On February 20th, a Piper Archer flying from Fitchburg Municipal Airport in Massachusetts crashed into Setauket Harbor; one passenger was tragically killed.
- On March 5th, a Cirrus SF22 flying from Rhode Island crash landed in Hauppauge industrial park.
- On March 11th, a Cessna 152 flying from Republic Airport made an emergency landing on a Kings Park beach.
- On April 10th, a Piper Cherokee flying from the Bayport Aerodrome crashed and caught fire on a Bayport residential street. The pilot and passenger were injured.
- On April 30th, a 1947 Stinson made an emergency landing in Riverhead. No injuries were reported.
- On May 3rd, a Beechcraft V35B Bonanza flying from North Myrtle Beach to Connecticut broke up midair and crashed in Syosset; all three passengers on board were tragically killed.
- On June 20th, an air charter service (1978 twin-engine plane) crashed landed at Republic Airport when the landing gear and part of the aircraft’s warning system failed.
The FAA conducts ramp inspections for both general aviation and commercial aircraft. Inspectors can examine: the pilot and crewmembers (ex. checking for medical certificates); the interior of the aircraft (ex. checking for airworthiness and registration certificates); servicing and maintenance of the aircraft; the exterior of the aircraft; and the ramp and gate condition. Schumer said that these inspections ensure that aircrafts adhere to the FAA’s federal regulations and safety procedures prior to a potential flight.
At major New York Airports, there were 2,849 inspections in 2006; 2,049 inspections in 2007; 1,492 inspections in 2008; 1,490 inspections in 2009; 1,046 inspections in 2010; 1,335 inspections in 2011; 1,375 inspections in 2012; 907 inspections in 2013; 930 inspections in 2014; 748 inspections in 2015.
Schumer specifically examined the total number of ramp inspections conducted at eight of the airports involved in the recent air crashes on Long Island. For instance, on Long Island, Brookhaven Calabro Airport was inspected 13 times in 2013; 5 times in 2014; 9 times in 2015. Republic Airport was inspected 136 times in 2013; 151 times in 2014; 83 times in 2015. Calverton Executive Airpark was inspected 4 times in 2013; 3 times in 2014; 0 times in 2015. Bayport Aerodrome was inspected 0 times in 2013; 1 time in 2014; 0 times in 2015. Long Island MacArthur Airport was inspected 61 times in 2013; 70 times in 2014; 64 times in 2015. Outside of Long Island, Robertson Field was inspected 14 times in 2013; 12 times in 2014; 8 times in 2015. North Myrtle Beach/Grand Strand was inspected 26 times in 2013; 13 times in 2014; 13 times in 2015. Fitchburg Municipal Airport was inspected 3 times in 2013; 3 times in 2014; 5 times in 2015.
A copy of Schumer’s letter is below:
Dear Administrator Huerta:
I write to express my concern about the decreasing number of total ramp inspections at New York airports and other airports around the Country in the last several years. I urge the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to increase the number of ramp inspections at airports to ensure that air carrier operations are as safe as possible.
As you know, the FAA conducts ramp inspections for both general aviation (GA) and commercial aircraft. The objective of a ramp inspection is to observe and evaluate the routine methods and procedures used by an operator’s personnel during the period immediately before or after a flight to determine compliance with FAA regulations and safe operating practices. Importantly, advance notice does not need to be given before a ramp inspection is conducted. The inspector can examine things like the pilot and crewmembers (ex. checking for medical certificates); the interior of the aircraft (ex. checking for airworthiness and registration certificates); servicing and maintenance of the aircraft; the exterior of the aircraft; and the ramp and gate condition.
I am concerned that the number of ramp inspections at New York airports and other airports around the Country has decreased significantly in recent years. Furthermore, as you know, I am also concerned about the recent dramatic uptick of small airplane or general aviation airplane crashes that have happened on Long Island this year. Ensuring the safety of our skies is a fundamental responsibility of the FAA, and routine and frequent ramp inspections are an important part of that effort.
Specifically, there were 2,849 ramp inspections at the major New York airports in 2006, compared to 748 in 2015. Furthermore, at several of the airports where the aircraft that have crashed on Long Island took off from there has also been a significant drop in the number of ramp inspections – for example, on March 11, a Cessna 152 flying from Republic Airport made an emergency landing on a Kings Park beach. At Republic, the number of ramp inspections went from 136 in 2013 to 151 in 2014, then down to just 83 in 2015. OnMay 3, a Beechcraft V35B Bonanza flying from North Myrtle Beach/Grand Strand to Connecticut broke up in midair and crashed in Syosset, tragically killing all three passengers on board; ramp inspections at that airport decreased from 26 in 2013 to 13 in both 2014 and 2015. In order to ensure that air carrier operations are as safe as possible, and in compliance with regulations and safe operating practices, the FAA should increase the frequency of ramp inspections at airports. I understand that the FAA has transitioned to a more data-driven, risk-based approach using the Safety Assurance System. However, while accidents across the state are tracking well below usual levels, accidents on Long Island are up this year; there may not be a direct connection between the number of ramp inspections and the number of crashes, but the FAA should increase the number of inspections it conducts to ensure that air carrier operations are as safe as possible, and to ensure that unsafe behaviors or practices are not going unnoticed.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this important matter. Should you have any additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer