FAA proposes tougher requirements for airline co-pilots

The Federal Aviation Administration called for more flight hours and increased experience requirements for commercial airline co-pilots on Monday.

It’s the first time since 1973 that the FAA has proposed increasing the training and experience requirements for co-pilots, the Associated Press reported.

“Our pilots need to have the right training and the right qualifications so they can be prepared to handle any situation they encounter in the cockpit,” Michael P. Huerta, the acting administrator of the FAA, told the AP.

In 2010, Congress mandated that longer and more focused training programs for co-pilots be introduced, following a turboprop plane crash near Buffalo, NY, in 2009 that was blamed on pilot error, the Wall Street Journal reported. Fifty people died in that crash.

An investigation revealed that minimal flying experience was not unusual among low-paid co-pilots, the AP reported. The beefed-up training is mostly designed to ensure that the younger pilots who tend to fly commuter carriers have enough experience, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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Currently, scheduled passenger and cargo airlines can hire co-pilots with just 250 hours of flight time, the Wall Street Journal reported. The FAA has proposed that all new co-pilots have at least 1,500 hours of flight time, meeting the same requirement as airline captains, the AP reported. Co-pilot candidates who are former military pilots will need only 750 hours of flight time and graduates of university or college flight schools will need only 1,000 hours.

The FAA is also asking for new co-pilots to demonstrate proficiency in the specific type of aircraft they plan to fly, the Wall Street Journal reported.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Industry officials have said the proposals, which aren't expected to become final for many months, could be a boon to universities and colleges that offer flight training as part of broader aviation programs. But for stand-alone flight schools that offer limited academic work, according to these officials, the proposal could result in a sizeable drop in students.

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