FAA Reluctant Raising Copilot Minimum Flight Hours For Airlines





FAA Reluctant Raising Copilot Minimum Flight Hours For Airlines

By Mike Mitchell
Colgan Air Crash Flight 3407

December 11, 2009 - On Thursday before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Subcommittee on Aviation on the Federal Aviation Administration’s Safety Programs, Federal Aviation Administrator, Randy Babbitt expressed some reluctance in changing FAA regulations on the number of flight hours required in order to be a co-pilot flying with the airlines.  

“We do not believe that simply raising quantity — the total number of hours of flying time or experience — without regard to the quality and nature of that time and experience is an appropriate method by which to improve a pilot’s proficiency in commercial operations. We are also considering other options. For example, a newly-certificated commercial pilot with the minimum number of hours might be limited to certain activities until he or she could accumulate the type of experience deemed potentially necessary to serve as a first officer for an air carrier.”   


At present a pilot with the airlines is required to have an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP) and in order to qualify for the ATP license the pilot must first have logged 1200 hours of flight time. A co-pilot only requires a Commercial Pilot certificate. In order to qualify for the Commercial Pilot Certificate the pilot must have first logged 250 hours of flight time. 

“We are looking at ways to enhance the existing process for pilot certification to identify discrete areas where an individual pilot receives and successfully completes training, thus establishing operational experience in areas such as the multi-pilot environment, exposure to icing, high altitude operations and other areas common to commercial air carrier operations. We view this option as being more targeted than merely increasing the number of total flight hours required because it will be obvious to the carrier what skills an individual pilot has, rather than relying on an assumption that a certain number of hours has resulted in a comprehensive set of skills.” 

The review of pilot training comes on the heels of a crash on February 12, 2009. It involved Colgan Air Inc., Bombardier Dash 8-Q400, N200WQ, d.b.a. Continental Connection Flight 3407, crashed during an instrument approach to runway 23 at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport (BUF), Buffalo, New York. The crash site was approximately 5 nautical miles northeast of the airport in Clarence Center, New York, and mostly confined to one residential house. The four flight crew and 45 passengers were fatally injured and the aircraft was destroyed by impact forces and post crash fire.  

An investigation of the crash revealed pilot fatigue and lack of pilot training. It appears both pilots did not recognize icing had taking place on the surface of the aircraft. Both pilots lacked proper training on a “stick pusher”, stall recovery, etc.   


Back in May the NTSB voted to conduct a public hearing on this accident and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt announced he had ordered FAA inspectors to immediately focus inspection on training programs to ensure that regional airlines are complying with federal regulations. 

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