The US Federal Aviation Administration is seeking public comment on the adequacy of current pilot qualification and training requirements following the February 2009 fatal Colgan Air Bombardier Q400 crash.
In October the US House of Representatives passed a bill that would raise pilot training and hiring requirements, although FAA administrator Randy Babbitt said in July that the Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009 was not necessary.
Pilot training came under scrutiny following the Colgan crash, in particular whether co-pilots receive sufficient training. The advanced notice of proposed rulemaking calls for industry input on whether all pilots should hold an FAA airline transport pilot licence, which requires a minimum of 1,500h.
Co-pilots are currently required to hold an instrument rating and a commercial pilot licence, which can be obtained with 250h. The House bill, as it stands, would require all airline pilots to hold an ATPL. Babbitt has said publicly that flying hours alone are no indicator of pilot quality or competence.
The proposal also considers whether the FAA should allow academic credit in aviation studies to count toward licensing in lieu of required flight hours or experience, and if the FAA accepts academic study, whether the agency should still require a minimum number of flight hours.
The FAA is considering creating an endorsement for a commercial pilot licence that could include operating experience in a crew environment, training records, and exposure to icing and flight experience in high-altitude operation, all important areas of operation that Babbit has highlighted as being absent from some regional airline co-pilots' experience.
Babbitt says: "Experience is not measured by flight time alone. Pilots need to have quality training and experience appropriate to their mission to be ready to handle any situation they encounter."