FAA seeks input on changes to pilot training requirements

Washington DC
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The US FAA is seeking public comment on the adequacy of current pilot qualification and training requirements following the fatal crash of a Colgan Air Bombardier Q400 in February 2009.

The FAA's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) will be published in the Federal Register on 8 February and will carry a 60-day comment period.

In October 2009 the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would elevate pilot training and hiring requirements even though FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told ATI in July 2009 the Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009 "is not necessary". The US Senate has not passed a pilot training and hiring bill.

Pilot training came under scrutiny following the crash, in particular whether second-in-command (SIC) pilot crewmembers receive enough training.

The ANPRM asks for industry input on whether all pilots should hold an FAA airline transport pilot (ATP) license, which can be obtained with a minimum of 1,500 flight hours.

SIC pilot crewmembers are currently required to hold an instrument rating and a commercial pilot license, which can be obtained with 250 flight hours, but the House bill would require all airline pilots to hold an ATP license.

The ANPRM also considers whether the FAA should allow academic credit to count toward certification in lieu of required flight hours or experience, and if the FAA accepts academic study, should the agency still require a minimum number of flight hours for certification.

The FAA is considering creating an endorsement for a commercial pilot certificate that could include operating experience in a crew environment, training and exposure to icing and flight experience in high altitude operation.

Meanwhile, the House bill would enable the FAA to consider allowing certain academic training hours to count toward required flight hours for the ATP.

The ANPRM also asks for industry input on whether the FAA should establish a new commercial pilot certificate scheme that would address concerns about the operational experience of newly hired commercial pilots, require additional flight hours and possibly credit academic training. The agency expects new requirements would include additional flight hour requirements, and asks if 750 flight hours is appropriate for a SIC.

"Experience is not measured by flight time alone," Babbitt says in a statement. "Pilots need to have quality training and experience appropriate to the mission to be ready to handle any situation they encounter."