After Crash, FAA Raises Pilot Qualifications

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -

Airline pilots will need to have more experience and pass more rigorous tests under the most significant increase in commercial flight-crew standards in decades, the U.S. government announced Wednesday.

The biggest changes will come for co-pilots, who will have to have at least 1,500 hours of flight time to be hired, up from the current minimum requirement of 250 hours. The regulation, required by Congress in 2010, would grant some exceptions. A military pilot would need 750 hours of total time and someone holding a bachelor’s degree with an aviation major could qualify with 1,250 hours of flight time.

“We owe it to the traveling public to have only the most qualified and best trained pilots,” Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said in a statement.

The Federal Aviation Administration projected a $6.4 billion cost, almost entirely because of the 1,500-hour requirement. The agency estimated $2.3 billion in savings because of the exceptions, such as the 750-hour standard for military pilots. Congress passed the law requiring the regulation in response to the Feb. 12, 2009, crash of a regional turboprop plane near Buffalo, N.Y., which killed all 49 people aboard and was blamed on pilot error.

It was the last fatal airline accident in the U.S. before the July 6 Asiana Airlines crash in San Francisco.