FAA Bids to Raise Requirements for First Officers

The proposed rule published in the Feb. 29 Federal Register would require them to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, for which substantially more flight hours are needed.

The Federal Aviation Administration proposes to raise the qualification requirements for first officers –- the second-in-command pilots on U.S. passenger and cargo airlines. The proposed rule says they'd have to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, for which 1,500 hours of pilot flight time are required. Pilots with aviation degrees or military pilot experience would be able to obtain a "restricted privileges" ATP certificate with fewer than 1,500 hours total time as a pilot.

The rule also would require first officers to have an aircraft type rating, which involves additional training and testing on the aircraft they fly, according to FAA's Feb. 27 announcement of the proposal.

FAA will accept comments until April 29 at www.regulations.gov, Docket Number FAA–2010–0100. The agency already received nearly 1,300 comments on its advance notice of proposed rulemaking (February 2010). As for the costs of this regulation, the proposed rule notes that statutorily, the ATP certificate requirement already will take place –- so this rule effectively imposes little additional cost: $18.9 million per year. The statute involved is the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010.

"Our pilots need to have the right training and the right qualifications so they can be prepared to handle any situation they encounter in the cockpit," said Michael Huerta, FAA's acting administrator. "I believe this proposed rule will ensure our nation’s pilots have the necessary skills and experience.\"

The rule would:

  • Require a pilot to have a minimum of 1,000 flight hours as a pilot in air carrier operations that require an ATP certificate before serving as a captain for a U.S. airline.
  • Raise training requirements for a certificate, including 50 hours of multi-engine flight experience and completion of a new FAA-approved training program.
  • Allow pilots with a "restricted privileges" ATP certificate to serve as first officers only, not as captains.

Former military pilots with 750 hours of flight time would be able to apply for an ATP certificate with restricted privileges. Graduates of a four-year baccalaureate aviation degree program would be able to obtain an ATP with 1,000 hours of flight time if they also obtained a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating from a pilot school affiliated with the university or college.

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

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