Pilot Certification Still In Play In D.C.
An effort to change the current certification rules for airline pilots through legislation has stalled, but an “administrative fix” could still come to pass, according to a report this week in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill news site. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said he will drop a provision about pilot training from the FAA authorization bill, which is expected to be addressed this summer. Thune had tried to create more flexibility in how pilots log hours, effectively reducing the 1,500-hour minimum now in effect for airline flight crews. He told Roll Call the discussion about the legislation raised the issue’s profile, and that might drive a change, but he couldn’t offer any specifics yet on what that change might look like.
The 1,500-hour rule, put in place after the Colgan Air crash, has been cited as a cause of the current pilot shortage that is affecting regional airlines and other operators. An FAA advisory panel has recommended that the rule should be revised, saying it “imposes costs that exceed the benefits.” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said last year he would fight any move to relax the rules via legislation. Opponents to change have cited the new rule as a factor in the airlines’ safety record, which has been fatality-free since 2009. Advocates for change say the quality of training and other factors are more important than hours logged. The captain in the Colgan crash had logged 3379 hours (111 as a Q400 captain) and the first officer had 2244 hours.