AIRLINES-PILOTS:U.S. proposes tougher airline pilot qualifications
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Pilots would be required to accumulate six times more flight training time to qualify as a co-pilot on a commercial airline or cargo aircraft under a U.S. government proposal released on Monday.
The Federal Aviation Administration rule, if approved, would require that pilots receive 1,500 hours of flight time compared to 250 hours now mandated under federal rules to become a first officer.
New training for specific aircraft would also be required.
"Our pilots need to have the right training and the right qualifications so they can be prepared to handle any situation they encounter in the cockpit," FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta said.
The FAA was ordered by Congress to take action to improve pilot training and qualifications following the 2009 crash of a commuter plane in Buffalo that killed 50 people.
The latest change, which includes an allowance for military pilots who want to fly commercially, is aimed mainly at those who fly commuter or smaller feeder planes, like those at the controls of the ill-fated Colgan Air Flight 3407.
Domestic airline flights operate with two pilots - the captain and the first officer.
National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators blamed the crew of the Bombardier DHC 8 400 for the Colgan crash that occurred as the plane was preparing to land. Investigators said the crew did not properly manage an unexpected problem that led to a stall.
The NTSB has also recommended a series of simulator and live-flight training changes for commercial pilots. Also in response to the Colgan crash, the FAA has finalized a rule aimed at giving pilots more rest between shifts.
The FAA proposal is subject to a 60-day comment period.
(Reporting By John Crawley; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)