An FAA advisory committee has recommended a training module that would allow pilots to be licensed for commercial flying after 500 hours of flight time.

The proposal to reduce minimum training hours comes as airlines -- especially regional carriers -- struggle with a nationwide pilot shortage.

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.

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