NASAO supports changes to flight time requirements for ATP certification

As work continues on an FAA reauthorization bill in the Senate, the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO) advocated on Friday for changes to a rule requiring 1,500 hours of flight experience for airline transport pilot (ATP) certification.

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In response to the Colgan Air Flight 3407 crash in 2009, the 2013 Pilot Certification and Qualification Requirements for Air Carrier Operations rule (FOQ rule) changed flight time requirements for student pilots to earn ATP certification from 250 hours to 1,500 hours

In a letter to leaders of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, NASAO leadership voiced support for an amendment to the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2017, S. 1405, that U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) introduced to amend the FOQ rule. The Thune amendment would allow structured training courses that promote safety to be credited as hours of flight experience for ATP certification.

“Now that Congress has passed an extension, we are hopeful that progress will be made on the Senate’s long-term FAA reauthorization bill, which includes much-needed, data-driven reforms to the 1,500-hour rule,” NASAO President and CEO Mark Kimberling said. “Instead of spending time on a proverbial solution in search of a problem with the House proposal to privatize air traffic control, Congress should now take action on what is clearly the real and immediate threat to our national aviation system — the pilot shortage issue.”

In addition to reducing the number of pilots entering the profession by increasing time and cost requirements to achieve certification, Kimberling cited recent reports that point to “fundamental flaws” with the 1,500-hour rule.

“It would be a real disservice to aspiring pilots, the traveling public and small communities across the country if Congress were to ignore the evidence that there is no positive correlation between increased flight hours and pilot proficiency, and the pilot shortage is being unnecessarily exacerbated by a well-intended, but misguided rule,” Kimberling said.

The Colgan crash was a tragedy for the aviation industry, Kimberling added, and safety “without compromise” is paramount across the aviation community.

“It’s unfortunate that the Thune amendment has been disingenuously mischaracterized as deprioritizing safety in favor of meeting industry demands as some sort of a trade off,” Kimberling concluded. “As a former first officer myself, I can personally attest to the fact that enhanced, structured training is a far better way to prepare pilots for the airline cockpit than mere time-building. We, accordingly, commend Chairman Thune and other members of the Commerce Committee for their thoughtful leadership in adopting language that addresses the pilot shortage issue in a way that actually enhances safety, while supporting small community air service with a sufficient pipeline of pilots.”