Press Release

Senate Approves Crucial Legislation Enhancing Co-Pilot Experience And Reforming Training Standards As Part Of FAA Reauthorization Bill

Mar 23, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC—U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Scott Brown (R-MA) announced today that the Senate has approved their legislation to increase training requirements for flight crews as part of the FAA Reauthorization bill.  This provision will mandate that FAA conduct a rulemaking, to be completed by the end of 2011, requiring co-pilots to have at least 800 hours of flying experience.  If FAA does not complete the rulemaking on time, then co-pilots will have to get an ATP license, which requires 1500 hours of flight experience in specifically-prescribed conditions. 

The idea for the legislation came about after investigations into the fatal crash of Flight 3407 near Buffalo, New York, revealed that shockingly limited flying experience is required to be a co-pilot for a regional carrier.

“This legislation will vastly improve the training for flight crews across the country and improve safety for all passengers,” said Schumer. “The 3407 families have been saint-like in their patience, and unwavering in their advocacy, but finally their wait is coming to an end.”

“This legislation is a major step forward to strengthen the safety of all airline passengers,” Senator Gillibrand said. “Working with the Families of Flight 3407, we have advanced our provision that would raise the minimum standards for new commercial pilots.  Apart from just more flight time experience, the new regulations would increase the quality of that training, not just the quantity.”

“The tragic crash of Continental Flight #3407 highlighted the need for increased aviation safety measures, specifically improvements to our training standards for pilots,” said Collins.  “I worked closely with the “Families of Continental Flight #3407” and admire their commitment and determination to improving the safety of our nation’s air service to help avoid another preventable tragedy.”

“This legislation addresses the critical need to upgrade the quality of pilots, particularly on the regional carriers that now provide more than half of all flights annually,” said Snowe.  “Requiring more thorough training in a variety of scenarios, such as in icing conditions, will go a long way toward remedying a number of the problems revealed during the NTSB investigation of the tragic crash of Flight 3407 outside of Buffalo, New York.”  

“The United States has the best aviators in the world,” said Senator Brown.  “I am proud to join this bipartisan effort to strengthen and increase the training requirements for airline co-pilots in our country.  This legislation takes an important step in helping to prevent tragedies like the one we saw in Buffalo.”

The Enhancing Flight Crewmembers’ Training Act, S.1744, was originally introduced in October as a standalone bill, with the intent to attach it to the bill reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration while it was being debated on the floor of the U.S. Senate.  The legislation had twelve co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, including Senators Joseph Lieberman (D/I-CT), Bob Casey (D-PA), John Kerry (D-MA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Roland Burris (D-IL), and James Risch (R-ID). 

According to this provision, pilots will have to have no less than 800 hours of flight time before serving as a flight crew member for a commercial air carrier, and will have to demonstrate the ability to:

  • Function effectively in a multi-pilot environment;
  • Function effectively in an air carrier operational environment;
  • Function effectively in adverse weather conditions, including icing conditions;
  • Function effectively during high altitude operations; and
  • Adhere to the highest professional standards.

The FAA Administrator will also have to dedicate a portion of the minimum 800 hours to flight training in difficult operational conditions.