FAA Proposes Change In First Officer Rules

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The FAA said on Monday it wants to substantially raise the qualification requirements for first officers who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines. The proposed rule, which the FAA said complies with a law passed in 2010, would require first officers flying in Part 121 operations to hold an ATP certificate, which requires 1,500 hours of flight time. Currently, first officers are required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours. Also, first officers would need to log at least 1,000 flight hours in air carrier operations before they could serve as pilot in command in those operations. And if first officers are flying an airplane that requires a type rating or a multiengine rating, they must log 50 hours of multiengine flight experience and complete a new FAA-approved ATP Certification Training Program for those ratings, which would include classroom and simulator training.

"These proposed requirements would ensure that pilots have proper qualifications and experience in difficult operational conditions and in a multi-crew environment prior to serving as pilot flight crew members in air carrier operations," says the proposal. The changes reflect a commitment to safety, said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "This proposed rule [would ensure] our pilots are the most qualified and best trained in the world," he said. Under the proposal, pilots with 750 hours of military flight experience could obtain a "restricted privileges" ATP certificate. These pilots could serve only as a first officer, not as a captain. Graduates of a four-year baccalaureate aviation degree program also could qualify for the "restricted" ATP if they have 1,000 hours of flight time and also have a commercial pilot certificate and instrument rating earned at a flight school affiliated with the university or college. The proposed rule is posted online here. The public has 60 days to comment on the proposal after it is officially published on Wednesday. The 2010 law cited in the proposal was enacted in response to the 2009 crash of a Colgan Air regional airliner in Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people.