The Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA) has hailed the announcement by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the agency is increasing the minimum qualification requirements for first officers (copilots) who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines. The new regulations, which go into effect on August 1, reflect ALPA’s efforts on several fronts and incorporate several ALPA recommendations.
In addressing ALPA members about the significance of the new rule, the Association’s president, Capt. Lee Moak, noted, “ALPA was instrumental in helping to develop these regulations through its participation on the related FAA-industry Aviation Rulemaking Committee, by working with the FAA and airline industry stakeholders, and by submitting extensive comments on the proposed rule.
Directed by Congress, the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010 called for increased minimum requirements for airline first officers. The new rule mandates that airline first officers hold an air transport pilot (ATP) certificate or the new “restricted ATP.”
An ATP certificate requires, among many other qualifications, that the pilot be at least 23 years old and have logged at least 1,500 hours of flight time.
The “restricted ATP” will require pilots to be at least 21 years old with
- 750 flight hours if they are military-trained and qualified,
- 1,000 flight hours if trained in a four-year college or university-accredited aviation training program leading to a bachelor’s degree, or
- 1,250 flight hours if trained in a two-year college aviation program leading to an associate’s degree.
Pilots who obtain their certificates and ratings via non-structured general aviation flight training can qualify for the restricted ATP at age 21 with 1,500 hours of flight time.
The new rule also requires, per ALPA’s recommendation, that first officers be “type rated” in the aircraft they fly in airline service—i.e., receive special training and testing on operation of that specific aircraft type.
To upgrade to captain, an airline copilot will have to log at least 1,000 hours of flight time as an airline copilot, as pilot in command (PIC) in certain small and charter airline or commercial general aviation operations, or any combination of these situations. The flight experience does not have to be obtained at the pilot’s current airline.
Military PIC time (as much as 500 hours) in a multi-engine, turbine-powered, fixed-wing airplane in an operation requiring more than one pilot may also be credited towards the 1,000 hours.
At ALPA’s urging, the FAA has not changed the type of medical certification required for airline first officers—they will still be required to hold a second class FAA airman medical certificate.
Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 50,000 pilots at 33 airlines in the United States and Canada.