Pilot License Certification Requirements Under Review By The FAA <


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Pilot License Certification Requirements Under Review By The FAA

By Mike Mitchell

February 5, 2010 - As part of the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Call to Action to enhance airline safety following last year’s Colgan Air accident in Buffalo, NY, the FAA seeks recommendations from the aviation community to improve pilot qualifications and training requirements.

On February 12, 2009, a Colgan Air, Inc., Bombardier DHC-8- 400, N200WQ, operating as Continental Connection flight 3407, was on an instrument approach to Buffalo-Niagara International Airport, Buffalo, New York, when it crashed into a residence in Clarence Center, New York, about 5 nautical miles northeast of the airport. The 2 pilots, 2 flight attendants, and 45 passengers aboard the airplane were killed, one person on the ground was killed, and the airplane was destroyed by impact forces and a postcrash fire.

The National Transportation Safety Board determined that the captain of Colgan Air flight 3407 inappropriately responded to the activation of the stick shaker, which led to an aerodynamic stall from which the airplane did not recover. In a report adopted in a public Board meeting in Washington, additional flight crew failures were noted as causal to the accident.  

“Our nation’s airlines should have the best-trained and best-prepared pilots in the cockpit,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “We must build on the current pilot certification system and make it even stronger.”  “Experience is not measured by flight time alone,” said FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt. “Pilots need to have quality training and experience appropriate to the mission to be ready to handle any situation they encounter.”  


The Call to Action will review key areas of pilot certification:  (For info on pilot requirements)

  • Should all pilots who transport passengers be required to hold an Air Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate with the appropriate aircraft category, class and type ratings, which would raise the required flight hours for these pilots to 1,500 hours?  

  • Should the FAA permit academic credit in lieu of required flight hours or experience?

  • Should the FAA establish a new commercial pilot certificate endorsement that would address concerns about the operational experience of newly hired commercial pilots, require additional flight hours and possibly credit academic training? 

  • Would an air carrier-specific authorization on an existing pilot certificate improve safety? 


The FAA’s Call to Action aims to strengthen pilot hiring, training and performance, as well as combat fatigue and improve professional standards and discipline at all airlines. The FAA is pursuing both rule changes and voluntary safety enhancements. One proposed rule, which will enhance airline pilot training programs, recently received more than 3,000 pages of public comments. 

The FAA is now developing a supplemental proposal that will be issued this spring. FAA will also propose new rules this spring to address pilot fatigue. The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) will be published next week in the Federal Register and will have a 60-day comment period. The FAA will then incorporate the comments into a new proposal that will also be published for public comment.

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