Senate Moves To Change Flight Rules

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Copilots for commercial flights carrying passengers would be required to have at least 800 hours of flight time under a measure passed by the Senate Tuesday. Current rules require only 250 hours. The 800 hours must include experience working in multiple-pilot environments and training in handling adverse weather and icing conditions. If the legislation becomes law, the FAA would have until the end of 2011 to issue new rules. The measure is just one part of the FAA reauthorization bill, which has been laden with dozens of controversial amendments, some of which have little or nothing to do with aviation, on its way through Congress. It's expected that the FAA will be given another 90-day funding extension on Thursday, moving the deadline back to June 30 for the reauthorization bill to pass.

Relatives of the victims of Colgan Air Flight 3407 have been actively lobbying Congress to include in the bill changes in the training standards for pilots on commercial passenger flights. The House version of the FAA reauthorization bill has already been passed, and it includes a 1,500-hour minimum requirement for right-seaters on commuter airlines. Whatever the Senate passes will have to be merged with the House bill by a House-Senate conference committee that will then vote on whatever compromises they reach. The long-awaited funding bill is expected to provide support for the development of NextGen.