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FAA Pushes for Tougher Copilot Training

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is taking steps to raise commercial-pilot qualifications. According to a press release issued by the agency, a proposed rule would mandate that copilots receive 1,500 hours of flight time before climbing into the cockpit.

As it stands now, copilots (which the FAA refers to as "first officers") need to have flown for just 250 hours in order to operate a plane. The FAA requires captains, however, to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which necessitates 1,500 hours of flying practice, so this rule would have little effect on them. But if the rule passes, copilots would need six times more flying experience than before.

The FAA is recommending these changes for one big, obvious reason: safety. In the press release, Secretary LaHood issued this statement: "This proposed rule reflects our commitment to the safety of the traveling public by making sure our pilots are the most qualified and best trained in the world."

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To make sure pilots are duly prepared to operate aircrafts, the FAA has additional changes up its sleeve. These include a call for more training after a pilot earns his or her ATP certificate (an added 1,000 flying hours) and a new multiengine flying requirement for those earning an ATP certification (50 hours of multiengine flying). Pilots with experience in the military or a degree in aviation could be exempt from the rules.

This latest proposal comes on the heels of new pilot-fatigue rules that were established late last year. Safety advocates have been pushing for better flying conditions after the Colgan Air plane crash that killed 50 people in 2009 (the National Transportation Safety Board ruled that pilot error caused the crash), and the FAA appears to be paying attention.

 If the new rules go into effect, will you feel safer in the sky?

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(Photo: Shutterstock/Tatiana Popova)

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