Tougher commercial pilot training rules that took effect in August will make America’s skies safer, federal officials say, but aviation experts and veteran pilots argue that the costly changes are overreaching and off-target, create crew shortages and do little to improve safety.
The changes, which affect regional carriers and increase the minimum flight time required to be a co-pilot from 250 to 1,500 hours, came in response to a 2009 plane crash in Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people.
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New pilot training rules
First officer (co-pilot)
Prior rules: Hold a commercial pilot certificate with an instrument rating, which required 250 flight hours.
New rules: Meet all prior rules, plus hold an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate, which requires the certificate holder to be at least 23 years old and have 1,500 hours total time as a pilot. People who do not have the minimum hours can receive an ATP certificate with restricted privileges, and could serve as a co-pilot until the necessary hours are reached. For example, students who receive their pilot certificates through a four-year university need 1,000 flight hours instead of 1,500, and military pilots need 750 flight hours instead of 1,500.
Captain (pilot in command)
Previous rules: Hold an airline transport pilot certificate.
New rules: Meet all previous rules, as well as have a minimum of 1,000 hours as a co-pilot in air carrier operations.
Source: Federal Aviation Administration