US raises minimum hours and licence requirements for commercial co-pilots – Australia parallels calls for action
In a move said to be coincidental with the recent accident of the Asiana 777 at San Francisco, the US is increasing the flight experience required for first officers on US airlines. The policy change in the US has also re-ignited previous calls in Australia to raise minimum licensing requirements for first officers.
Changes to aviation legislation in the US stems from the Colgan Q400 accident in Buffalo in 2009 in which 50 people died. The new rules implemented by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) mean first officers will now need Airline Transport Pilot certificates - equivalent to Australia’s ATPL – to take control of US commercial airliners or cargo aircraft. The new certificates will require a minimum of 1,500 hours’ total flight time, up from the previous 250 hours and requirement for only a commercial licence.
Additionally, captains will need at least 1,500 hours of flight time in addition to now 1,000 hours as a co-pilot on a commercial carrier.
The Colgan accident investigation raised questions about pilot training in which the pilot in command failed to respond appropriately to a stall warning. It draws parallels with initial considerations of the Asiana accident.
However, whether the FAA moves to enforce such legislation to crews operating commercial aircraft in US airspace remains uncertain while investigators consider whether crew experience in the Asiana accident was in any way contributory.
Former inspector-general at the US Department of Transportation and now aviation lawyer Mary Schiavo, said as initial investigations into the Asiana accident were being carried out that the minimum time required for aircrew to be able to be in command of commercial aircraft approaching US airports would likely be a point of interest.
Meanwhile in Australia, president of the Australian International Pilots Association (AIPA) Capt. Barry Jackson said he stands by the 22 recommendations made by AIPA in 2010 to a senate enquiry that among other proposals stated “that an ATPL… be required for first officers in high capacity regular public transport (RPT) jet aircraft such as Boeing 737, A320 and other aircraft of similar or greater capacity”.
The 22 recommendations contributed by AIPA, said Jackson, “have been ignored by the current government”.
“AIPA’s view is we support the changes as being sensible and responsible. We set out that an ATPL was a minimum for high capacity jets,” Jackson explained to Australian Aviation.
“Our view is of the same opinion as the US that the requirements of the ATPL can be reduced with an approved tertiary program or military background used to offset the requirement for 1,500 hours.
“Our concern is the ever-increasing pressure put on young pilots by unscrupulous operators.”
To guard against that possibility, AIPA also recommended to the senate enquiry that “for non-jet operations, which employ low-experience first officers, operators be required to provide enhanced supervision and mentoring schemes to offset such lack of experience.”