FAA May Lower Flight Time Requirements for First Officers

Published: 09-21-2016
A new proposal could allow pilots with as little as 500 hours of experience to fly for a commercial airline.

A labor group led by the Federal Aviation Administration is considering a proposal that would allow military pilots with as little as 500 hours of flying experience to become first officers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the labor group is looking to introduce a set of new proposals aimed at addressing the industry’s demand for pilots. It is believed that the proposal will not recommend any changes in requirement for captains or for first officers who do not have a military background. Further details are not yet known and remain confidential.

Due to 1,500-Hour Rule and the mandatory retirement age, smaller carriers have been the first to suffer from the shrinking pool of applicants, but larger carriers could quickly suffer from the effects if the industry fails to quickly find a solution. Recent projections from the University of North Dakota’s Aviation Department show that the deficit will grow to a staggering 15,000 by 2026.

The 1,500-Hour Rule, which many point to as a large contributing factor to the shortage, was implemented following a thorough investigation of the Colgan crash, but its effectiveness has been a questioned by many within the industry. “‘We have found no evidence that high time [experience] makes better pilots,” said Paul Kolisch, manager of flight operations training for Endeavor Air.

But can lowering the minimum for such a small group work as a viable solution? According to aviation consultant, Kit Darby, only a quarter of U.S. airline pilots come from the military. “The assistance the proposals would provide is limited.”

Although assistance would be limited in the short-run, the FAA may be looking at a long-term plan of relaxing the minimums. According to the WSJ, “FAA asked the latest panel to study potential adjustments within the framework of previous congressional mandates.”

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