FAA proposed requiring US airline pilots to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, meaning first officers will need 1,500 flight hr. before ascending to a Part 121 cockpit. First officers currently need an instrument rating and commercial pilot certificate requiring just 250 hr.

FAA was mandated to raise commercial airline pilot training requirements in 2010 by Congress, which passed aviation safety legislation in response to the 2009 Colgan Air crash (ATW Daily News, Aug. 2, 2010). Pilot training advocates have urged the agency to develop alternatives to meet the 1,500 hr. requirement, arguing both that hours are a poor way to judge a pilot's aptitude and that accumulating so many hours will be cost-prohibitive for many young pilots (ATW, May 1, 2010).

The proposed rule, on which the public now has 60 days to comment, does include two exceptions to the 1,500 hr. requirement. Former military pilots with 750 hr. of flight time "would be able to apply for an ATP certificate with restricted privileges," allowing them to become first officers, FAA said. In addition, graduates of a four-year baccalaureate aviation degree program will be able to get an ATP with 1,000 hr. of flight time.

"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," FAA acting administrator Michael Huerta said. "I believe this proposed rule will ensure our nation's pilots have the necessary skills and experience."