WASHINGTON — The House voted Wednesday to toughen regulations on pilot training, qualifications and work schedules, a response to a fatal crash in upstate New York in February and other accidents involving regional airlines.
The bill, which was approved 409-11, would require all pilots that fly for a passenger-carrying airline to have an Air Transport Pilot certificate, effectively raising the number of flying hours an entry-level airline pilot must have from the current 250 hours to 1,500 hours.
The bill allows the FAA to credit course work at specific flight training schools toward the requirements for receiving an Air Transport certificate. The schools had expressed concern that would-be pilots would skip the schooling to concentrate on accumulating flying time.
The sponsors of the bill, Reps. James Oberstar, D-Minn., and Jerry Costello, D-Ill., have said that by boosting the experience required to become a pilot, they hope to indirectly increase the salaries of regional airline pilots. If airlines have to pay higher salaries to attract more experienced pilots, that will increase the overall caliber of pilots in the profession, they reasoned.
The bill also requires the Federal Aviation Administration to update rules governing how many hours airlines may require a pilot to fly before the pilot is permitted rest. Airlines would also have to put in place fatigue risk management plans – programs that use scientific research on fatigue to assess pilot hours and alert airlines to schedules that are likely to induce fatigue.