An FAA advisory committee has recommended a training module that
would allow pilots to be licensed for commercial flying after 500 hours of
The proposal to reduce minimum training hours comes as
airlines -- especially regional carriers -- struggle with a nationwide pilot
Under current rules, pilot trainees typically must amass 1,500
hours of flying to obtain their ATP license, a necessity to serve as a co-pilot
on a scheduled air carrier.
Exceptions are allowed for military pilots, who must have
750 hours; graduates of qualified bachelor degree aviation programs, who must
fly 1,000 hours; and graduates of qualified associates degree aviation
programs, who must have 1,250 hours.
Under a recommendation of the FAA's Air Carrier Training
Aviation Rulemaking Committee, trainees who go through what would be an
airline-run training program could obtain an ATP license with just 500 hours of
flight time. Only military pilots and graduates of authorized four-year and
two-year university and college aviation programs would be eligible for
acceptance to such programs.
The committee suggested that the programs include 326 hours
of aviation-related coursework. In addition, upon completion trainees would
need to have 100 hours of night flight time, 75 hours of instrument flight time
and 200 hours of cross-country flight time among other requirements. The
programs would be comprised of 14 distinct modules.
The Air Line Pilots Association, which had a seat on the FAA
advisory committee, took issue with the recommendation.
"ALPA is supportive of the existing pathways that help
prepare individuals for careers as professional airline pilots," the pilots
union said. "However, we do not support programs that shortcut or
undermine the valuable training and experience that are necessary to develop
the judgment required to be a safe and qualified professional pilot."
ALPA supported more moderate credits of 250 hours across the
board for aspiring pilots who complete the proposed airline-run training
module. Under that proposal, military pilots could get an ATP license with 500
hours of flight time, four-year aviation school graduates would need 750 hours
and two-year graduates would need 1,000 hours.
According to Dan Akins, a transportation economist and
founder of the consulting firm Flightpath Economics, the U.S. commercial
airline industry is short approximately 500 pilots this year. But that number
will balloon to 2,000 next year and 4,000 by 2022, as some 13,000 to 15,000
pilots at Delta, United, American and Southwest reach retirement age.