FAA ups qualification requirement for First Officers

Commercial carriers have had a couple years to prepare for the change in requirements.

Commercial carriers have had a couple years to prepare for the change in requirements. (Photo by Tom Doyle/Flickr Creative Commons)

The Federal Aviation Administration is increasing the amount of hours required to become a copilot for a commercial air carrier.

The change goes into effect August 1.

Copilots – technically known as first officers – will now be required to hold an air transport pilot license.

It will take 1,500 hours to qualify for that. And that’s quite the increase – up from today’s standard, 250 hours.

“That doesn’t mean your first officer only had 250 hours,”  Matthew Macri, the director of operations for PenAir, said.

He says most first officers have well-exceeded the 250 hour mark, and the change won’t be too onerous.

“We’ve known this has been coming long enough that for the past two years most carriers have been able to adapt their hiring practices so it wouldn’t be a catastrophic event where they’d have to furlough half of their crew force until they have enough flight time,” Macri said.

Congress mandated the FAA change the requirements after a regional carrier in the northeast crashed killing 50 people. The FAA blamed a lack of pilot training in that crash.

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