Breaking News Bar
updated: 7/10/2013 6:31 PM

FAA to expand airline first officer qualifications

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • In this Feb. 12, 2009, file photo, a plane burns after it crashed into a house in Clarence Center, N.Y. The amount and type of flying experience first officers -- also known as co-pilots -- must have to qualify to fly for an airline will be significantly increased and expanded under new regulations announced Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration.

      In this Feb. 12, 2009, file photo, a plane burns after it crashed into a house in Clarence Center, N.Y. The amount and type of flying experience first officers -- also known as co-pilots -- must have to qualify to fly for an airline will be significantly increased and expanded under new regulations announced Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration.
    Associated Press

 
Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- The amount and type of flying experience first officers -- also known as co-pilots -- must have to qualify to fly for an airline will be significantly increased and expanded under new regulations announced Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The regulations require first officers to have at least 1,500 hours of flying experience. Airline captains are already required to have at least 1,500 hours. Previously, first officers were only required to have 250 hours of flight time.

The rule also requires first officers to have an aircraft-type rating, which involves additional training and testing specific to the type of airplane they fly.

"The rule gives first officers a stronger foundation of aeronautical knowledge and experience before they fly for an air carrier," FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.

The FAA said it expects to publish the regulations soon.

The new regulations are required under a sweeping aviation safety law enacted in 2010 in response to the crash of a regional airliner near Buffalo, N.Y., that killed 50 people. The crash was blamed on pilot error.

The regulations are a victory for the air crash victims' family members who dedicated countless hours over the last four and a half years, first to lobby Congress for passage of the law and later to push the Obama administration to carry through with the regulations despite industry opposition.

The law required the FAA to implement a series of safety regulations. Changes to the first officer qualifications, which had remained unaltered for many years, are considered among the most important. Two years ago, the FAA adopted regulations also required under the safety law that set new policies governing airline pilot work schedules aimed at preventing dangerous errors made by tired or overworked pilots.

The question of pilot experience is one of the issues raised in the investigation of the crash landing of Asiana Flight 214 in San Francisco over the weekend. Two of the 307 people aboard the plane were killed and scores of others injured.

The Asiana pilot flying the plane, Lee Gang-guk, had nearly 10,000 hours of flying experience, but was transitioning to a new type of plane. He had recently received his type rating and was about half way through his post-rating, real-world training.

The new regulations are expected to have the greatest impact on safety at smaller, regional air carriers, where entry-level pilots are typically hired with only a few hundred hours. Pilots at major airlines typically start out with more experience and are often drawn from regional carriers.

"Another key piece of the foundation of one level of aviation safety has been achieved with this pilot qualifications rule," said Scott Maurer, whose 30-year-old daughter, Lorin, was killed in the Buffalo crash. "We want to get the best pilots possible into the cockpits, and then we want to set them up for success."

But the regulations also have important implications for pilots at major carriers. For example, first officers now must have 1,000 hours of flying experience in the type of plane they fly before they can be promoted to captain, said Jeff Skiles, a US Airways pilot who lobbied to get the regulations. The practical result of that requirement is that first officers will probably have to spend a year to a year and a half flying a particular type of plane before they can qualify as a captain in that plane no matter how much previous experience they have flying other air craft, he said.

The pilot qualification regulations are "certainly the single greatest thing I will do in my life," Skiles said, adding that strongly expects the new requirements to save lives.

Skiles was the co-pilot of the "Miracle on the Hudson" US Airways plane that lost thrust in both engines after colliding with a flock of geese. The skillful flying of Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger and teamwork by Skiles has been credited with a near-perfect water landing on the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey that helped save the lives of all aboard the airliner.

Share

Interested in reusing this article?

Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.

The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.

Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Name * Company Telephone * E-mail *

Message (optional)

Success - Reprint request sent Click to close
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here