A bill passed overwhelmingly in the House of Representatives Oct. 14 aimed at enhancing flight standards for airline pilots may have repercussions affecting all of aviation.
The legislation, passed 409 to 11, calls for increasing the number of flight hours to work as an airline pilot to 1,500 for an Air Transport Pilot certificate. Current regulations only require 250 hours to work as a first officer.
The bill also orders the FAA to set up a databank with information about every pilot. It would have all pertinent facts, which can be passed on to airlines seeking to hire a person. Information would include pilot’s licenses, aircraft ratings, check rides, notices of disapproval, and other flight proficiency tests.
Students attending accredited schools may count some classroom time toward the 1,500 flight hours required. The bill sets out specific subjects to be covered. Beyond these, the FAA may allow credit based on specific academic training courses that are determined “to enhance safety more than requiring the pilot to fully comply with flight hours requirement.”
Jason Blair, executive director of the National Association of Flight Instructors, says this section is something the association will have to look at closely as it sets different levels for flight students going to accredited schools and those taking lessons from an instructor at their airport. He adds that flight hours alone are not the answer to safety, pointing out that the type of training, conditions of flight, aircraft flown, and other factors affect a pilot’s ability to handle different situations.
Another section of the legislation requires a study to be conducted “of flight schools, flight education, and academic training requirements” and to compare training in the United States with that in other nations.
The bill was introduced following the accident of a commuter flight at Buffalo, New York.
The Senate must also act on the issue and the two bills be merged before becoming law.