The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has boosted experience requirements for first officers (co-pilots) flying U.S. passenger and cargo jets. The new rule coincidentally follows, but is not related to, the July 6 crash of an Asiana Boeing 777 at San Francisco International (SFO), which has triggered debate as to whether the co-pilot landing the plane had sufficient experience flying that particular Boeing model.
The new rule, which will be published in the coming days, requires first officers to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, which requires 1,500 hours of flying time. The new requirement replaces a previous one mandating that first officers hold a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time.
Additionally, the new rule requires that first officers also have a rating for aircraft type, which involves additional training and testing specific to the types of airplanes that fly.
The FAA said that the new regulations stem in part from the crash of Continental flight 3407 in February 2009, which killed all 50 people on board and one person on the ground when it crashed en route from Newark, N.J., to Buffalo, N.Y.
A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigation of the Colgan Air crash determined it to be the result of the pilot’s inability to respond properly to the airplane’s warnings of an aerodynamic stall.
The Colgan Air crash was the most recent deadly crash of a major airline before the Asiana crash, which killed 2 people and injured more than 180 others, some critically. Much attention has been placed on whether the Asiana 214 co-pilot’s 43 hours of Boeing 777 flying time were sufficient.
New training-requirement rules designed to ensure pilots know how to react properly in difficult operating environments are expected to be published this fall, the FAA said.
The new rules are consistent with the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010, a Congressional mandate to boost airplane safety based on several findings of the Continental 3407 crash. Other new rules resulting from the act address pilot fatigue, including flight and duty time regulations.