FAA Raising Requirements for Co-Pilots

A final rule available on the agency's website will require them to have an aircraft type rating and hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which requires 1,500 hours as a pilot.

The Federal Aviation Administration will publish a final rule soon that raises the minimum requirements for passenger and cargo airlines' first officers, also known as co-pilots. The rule is already posted on FAA's website, along with comments about it from Anthony Foxx, the new U.S. transportation secretary.

The rule says first officers must hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, requiring 1,500 hours total time as a pilot, where the current requirement is for a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time. The new rule also requires them to have an aircraft type rating that involves additional training and testing specific to the airplanes they fly.

"Safety will be my overriding priority as secretary, so I am especially pleased to mark my first week by announcing a rule that will help us maintain our unparalleled safety record," Foxx said in FAA's news release. "We owe it to the traveling public to have only the most-qualified and best-trained pilots."

The new rule came about in part because of the Colgan Air 3407 crash in February 2009 and also a congressional mandate in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 that both pilots and co-pilots have ATP certification. That law also called for changing flight duty and rest requirements for pilots, which FAA 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.

"The rule gives first officers a stronger foundation of aeronautical knowledge and experience before they fly for an air carrier," said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. "With this rule and our efforts to address pilot fatigue – both initiatives championed by the families of Colgan flight 3407 – we're making a safe system even safer."

The 221-page rule is available here.

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