Today's News / Transportation Safety

In wake of plane crash, FAA sets new pilot qualification standards

More flight time required for co-pilots

airplane in flightIn a final rule to be published soon, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is increasing the qualification requirements for first officers who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines.

The rule requires first officers — also known as co-pilots — to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, requiring 1,500 hours total time as a pilot. Previously, first officers were required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time.

The rule also requires first officers to have an aircraft type rating, which involves additional training and testing specific to the airplanes they fly.

The new regulations stem in part from the tragic crash of Colgan Air 3407 in February 2009, and address a Congressional mandate in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 to ensure that both pilots and co-pilots receive the ATP certification. The new rule is one of several rulemakings required by the Act, including the new flight duty and rest requirements for pilots that were finalized in December 2011, and new training requirements expected this fall for air carrier training programs to ensure pilots know how to react properly in difficult operating environments.

Other highlights of the rule include:

  • A requirement for a pilot to have a minimum of 1,000 flight hours as a co-pilot in air carrier operations prior to serving as a captain for a U.S. airline.
  • Enhanced training requirements for an ATP certificate, including 50 hours of multi-engine flight experience and completion of a new FAA-approved training program.
  • An allowance for pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours of flight time or who have not reached the minimum age of 23 to obtain a "restricted privileges" ATP certificate. A restricted privileges ATP certificate allows a pilot to serve as a co-pilot until he or she obtains the necessary 1,500 hours. The options are:
    • Military pilots with 750 hours total time as a pilot;
    • Graduates holding a Bachelor's degree with an aviation major with 1,000 hours total time as a pilot;
    • Graduates holding an Associate's degree with an aviation major with 1,250 hours;
    • Pilots who are at least 21 years old with 1,500 flight hours.

The rule addresses recommendations from an Aviation Rulemaking Committee, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the FAA's Call to Action to improve airline safety.

View Final Rule

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