FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt believes changes could be necessary in requirements to obtain the two types of pilot licenses currently necessary to perform operations at commercial air carriers.
Pilot experience, commuting and fatigue were among many issues that caught the attention of US legislators in the aftermath of the fatal Colgan Airways Bombardier Q400 crash in February.
Family members of the crash victims have banded together to push for legislation requiring all commercial airline pilots hold an ATP before being hired. Currently first officers must hold at least a commercial pilot license to be hired by a US Part 121 air carrier.
Legislators have also scrutinised if the number of flight hours required for to obtain a license should be raised.
Today during a hearing held by the aviation subcommittee in the US Senate, Babbitt explained: "What I propose to put out is a rule that says if you go to work for a Part 121 air carrier and sit in the right seat, you need to bring a set of credentials superior to what you bring today."
Babbitt believes those individuals holding commercial pilot licenses need to demonstrate proven experience in high altitude operations, multi-crew procedures and icing to work at commercial air carriers.
He proposes either a new rating system that would broaden the requirements for a commercial pilot certificate, or using a process in place today of obtaining an endorsement for tailored training to operate in a high-altitude environment.
Babbitt discourages an emphasis on the number of flight hours required for licenses, warning that simply raising the quantity of hours, "without addressing the quality and the nature of the time and pilot experience imparted during training may not ensure the improved proficiency we all want".
Key to achieving that proficiency is making sure pilots are familiar with every possible scenario they're likely to encounter during commercial operations, "whether it is 1500 hours or 2500 hours", says Babbitt.
A notice of proposed rulemaking issued earlier this year outlining changes to enhance training for pilots and dispatchers drew nearly 3,000 pages of comment, and Babbitt says the agency plans to issue a supplemental proposal to incorporate those suggestions.
"The final rule will be consistent with the philosophy of enhancing the quality and effectiveness of training rather than focusing on traditional quantitative measures such as total flight time," says Babbitt.
Babbitt suggests once that first phase is compete, an overhaul of ATP requirements needs consideration since aircraft technology has changed drastically since the current regulations were put into place.
"I'm not so convinced that the ATP today gives us the elements we need", Babbitt says.