New FAA Rule Will Hurt Small City Air Service

Government Regulation

Small airports have lost a lot of service over the last several years, and a new rule by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is now very likely going to make things even worse. The new rule will dramatically increase the number of hours required for pilots to be able to fly commercially in the US. This is theoretically being done in the name of safety, of course, but I’m not convinced that’s what this plan will achieve.

Regional Pilots

You’re probably wondering how I’m connecting the dots here between the number of hours required for a pilot and reduced small city flying, right? Let me walk through this the way I see it.

The entry level role for a pilot at an airline is as a first officer. Today, to even be considered for that you have to have your commercial pilot certificate. To get that you need (in most cases), 250 hours of flight time.

In the wake of the Colgan Air accident in Buffalo, Congress decided it was time to toughen up pilot rules back in 2010. It’s taken awhile, but the FAA has now finally put the rule into place that follows what Congress directed the administration to do.

The new rule will require that first officers get their Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate and that means, with few exceptions, you need to have an incredible 1,500 hours of flight time before you can even be considered for a job flying paying passengers. Think about that. If you went up for 2 hours a day, every single day, it would still take more than 2 years. And this is flight time, so none of the time getting to the airport, studying, preparing the airplane for flight, etc will count.

And what’s the pay off? Well today, if you get hired, it’ll probably be by a regional airline. And those regional airlines pay very little. For example, a first year first officer at SkyWest, one of the largest regionals in the US flying for pretty much every major airline earns $22 per flight hour. If you fly 80 hours a month, you’ll make just over $21,000 a year.

Now let’s think about this. If you’re a pilot, are you going to spend a ton of time and money to get those 1,500 hours just to be able to fly around for peanuts? That’s a tough sell. It’s easier to justify today if you need only 250 hours, because then you can at least get a job and work your way up more quickly. But getting to 1,500 hours is a whole different story. People have worried about pilot shortages for years, but this rule change makes it a near certainty.

So if that’s the case and airlines have trouble finding enough pilots, what happens? Well, the big airlines won’t have a problem. They look at the regionals as their farm teams, effectively. So they will continue to have a pipeline from the regionals for many years to come. But the regionals are the ones hiring fresh young faces. And if those faces stop showing up, then something has to give.

That “something” will inevitably mean regionals will have to spend more money in one of two ways.

Some regionals may end up spending money on training programs. They can offer to train pilots up and then have them start flying when they’re done. This will mean that it’s less costly for a pilot to get started even if a huge number of hours is still required. The other way to get more pilots flying is to spend more money on wages. Make the piloting profession more attractive and people will eventually decide it’s worth getting the 1,500 hours.

If regionals have to spend more money, then that cost has to be passed on to the major airlines they fly for. Contracts today are generally at a fixed fee with certain pass-through items that fluctuate based on cost, like fuel. If regional costs are higher, then they will have to charge their big partner airlines more to provide that service. And if they charge those airlines more, then those big airlines are going to have to decide if all the cities that receive service today can still support that level of service if costs are higher.

And that’s why small city service would take a hit.

The prospect of higher wages and bigger money naturally appeals to pilots, and the unions support this, as you would expect. What I just don’t know is whether this rule will actually contribute to improved safety or not. There is something to be said for having more hours, but look at the safety record in the US over the last decade and it’s hard to argue with the numbers. It’s not clear to me that having more hours would have even prevented the Colgan accident. There you had exhausted pilots, one of whom failed multiple check rides and may not have been adequately trained. The number of hours doesn’t jump out as the problem to me.

I would love to hear from the pilots here about your thoughts on this. I can see what the impact on the industry will be, but I just don’t know if it’s truly justifiable. What do you think?

[Original pilot photo via Shutterstock]

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101 comments on “New FAA Rule Will Hurt Small City Air Service

  1. One of the problems seems to be that pilots flying for regionals get paid very little and end up having to either get a 2nd job, sleep in their car, or find other ways to make ends meet – the result is that regional pilots are exhausted and make mistakes or fall asleep while flying.

    If as it seems, that regionals just aren’t paying their pilots enough cash then regionals have to pay pilots more and fares have to go up.

    It’s difficult for Govt to enforce a minimum pay rate specifically for pilots, so this has to be achieved by alternate means. Requiring a minimum number of hours would cause a shortage of pilots, which would then force regionals to raise their pay to attract new pilot recruits.

    It might seem an indirect way of achieving the end goal, but within a year or two, this should lead to the required result.

    1. There is nothing in Public Law 111-216 that addresses wages. Public Law 111-216 will not make pilot wages go up.

      In fact new rest rules that went into effect 1 Jan 2014 under 14 CFR 117 now mean that pilots fly less hours per month…which means less take home pay per month for the poor pilots. The unions have not renegotiated wages in light of the new 14 CFR 117 rules.

      And in fact the 14 CFR 117 rules aren’t working….I know one case of a pilot flying for a major who should have gotten 19 hours rest in between flight days, but because of the new scheduling & WX only got 12 hours.

  2. Given that the current wage of $22 / flight hour is almost criminally low, I have a really hard time getting upset that wages will have to rise. In no other industry do you put somebody with years of training at the controls of a $10M+ machine, with the lives of 50 or so people on the line, and pay them, net, less than what you’d pay somebody to bag groceries.

    But yeah, 1,500 hours is a pretty high bar to cross… there are only a limited number of cargo and flight instructor jobs to go around. (And flight instruction time is already stupid-cheap.)

    And yes, the airlines have whined about pilot shortages for years… but what they really meant was “shortage of suckers willing to fly for the tiny, tiny, wages we are willing to pay”.

    1. Cape Air pays their F/O’s $9.48 an hour to start.

      Mokulele pays $7.75 an hour and also deducts half of that as training costs (up to $4500 I think).

      $22/hour is great in comparison, but remember that’s only with a guarantee of 75 hours a month….and I think the max is 85 hours per month? It’s not a 173 hour month, like in the 40hr a week working world.

      Thus many pilots need second jobs to survive.

    2. Cape Air pays its F/Os $9.48 an hour to start

      Mokulele pays $7.75, and deducts half of that in training costs (up to $4500 I think).

      $22/hour is great, but remember that’s only a guarantee of 75 hours a month. And I think the max possible is 85 hours per month. It’s certainly not 173 hours per month like for a 40hr a week office job.

    3. Cape Air pays its FOs $9.48/hour to start.

      Mokulele pays $7.75/hr, and deducts half of that for training costs (up to $4500 I think)

      In comparison $22/hr seems great. But remember that’s only with a guarantee of 75 hours a month (and I think the maximum is 85 hours a month). Way less than the standard 173 hours a month that a normal 40/hr a week job pays.

      So pilots end up needing to get second jobs in order to survive. Which leads to fatigue.

  3. This right here is why I left the industry and went into computers. Regional pilot pay is a total joke. The only problem is I don’t really see anything giving really soon. There are too many other pilots who love to fly so much that they don’t care what they are being paid. And most others look at this as “paying their dues” so to speak for a major airline job. So to a lot of these guys it’s just part of the process.

    1. Yeah, me too. I was in computers, got a commercial license, and an offer from a regional. Decided to stick with computers then, and journalism now. Already got 1,500 hours, and I have no plans to apply to the regionals.

      One thing to remember; There is no such thing as a pilot shortage, just a shortage of people willing to serve as pilot for $18k a year. Plenty of people will go to economically unjustified lengths to become a pilot, but regionals might eventually have to raise pay incrementally to compete.

      But think about this: If a pilot makes $22/flight hour, flying a 70 seat plane, that is 31 cents per passenger/hour. So let’s that’s a $2.50 in labor for two pilots for a two hour flight, round trip. Even when you throw in training and benefits, it still doesn’t seem like pilot pay is much of a factor in our hypothetical 700 mile trip. In fact, it is a rounding error when airlines charge $25 for bags and $200 for “change fees.” Frankly, I don’t think the 1,500 hr. requirement is going to affect prices, but it is the right thing to do for safety. It scares me to imagine myself (or anyone else) as captain or co-pilot of a commercial airliner with less than 1,000 hrs.

      1. @Jason. Spot on! The ones that really scare me are some of the foreign carriers that begin 737 FO training with under 200 total hours. Those are not pilots, but button pushers. I know, a little off-topic, but again it is still about safety when the *&%@ing button does not work. There are other good reasons to support the ATP and 1500 hour rule, but enhanced safety alone is enough.

      2. Jason, you won’t have a captain with less than 1,000 hours. It takes more hours than that to get an ATP rating. I think the minimum for co-pilots should be less, maybe a minimum of 500 – 750 hours and raise the requirement that they have to have 2500 hours to fly as captain. Part of the problem is in the training, where a pilot flunks a check ride several times. When that happens, he/she needs to be shown the door instead of maybe some instructor/check airman signing them off as passing. Just my take on it. I have a grandson who has been flying for a regional for several years as captain. The only reason he’s sticking it out is he’s hoping to land a job wityh a major. He said the starting pay on most majors is about the same as he makes as a captain on a regional jet.

      3. I do not agree. I gave a Bi- Annual to pilot with more than 8 thousand hours in my twin engine airplane and he damned near killed me. So do not go trying to blow smoke that hours makes a good pilot. I have 1000 hours and could out fly most of the idiots I have given Bi Annuals to all have had more hours than me..

        1. Sorry Troy but you’re clueless. If a pilot has been flying jets day in and day out – ones they could probably fly circles around you with a blindfold – then try to fly a Seminole or small twin, they’ll likely have a harder time than if they flew nothing at all.

          I fly jets for an airline – I can roll on the landing every single time. But I wouldn’t even attempt to land a small twin without some refresher/instruction again. Even though once upon a time I instructed in them. It’s completely different from what I’m now used to.

  4. Nice post, Cranky. I agree with everything you said, but I’d add that a possible solution to the pilot shortage will be to use the advances in technology to get down to a 1 pilot cockpit. I think this rule will advance this idea into the next 10 years or so (unless blocked by the government). There’s no other solution – the industry will shrink because of this rule.

    1. Do you think that will ever happen? What if the pilot has a heart attack mid-flight (like happened back in ’09 on a Continental flight from Brussels to Newark)? I agree something like that is incredibly rare, but do you really see regulatory agencies moving past it?

    2. 1 pilot, perhaps, but 2 person still. As a stepping stone to more fully automated planes I think we’ll see 1 real pilot plus another “operator”. The operator would effectively be a first officer of today, expected to learn and advance to the left seat in time. The difference being that the airplane would be single-pilot certified and the second pilot would be basically a safety backstop who could program the autoland.

      We’re already seeing the foundations for this. The Multicrew Pilot License lowers pilot requirements, and long haul relief pilots are sometimes not even qualified to takeoff or land, only operate the aircraft in cruise.

      This could be one way around the 1500 hour problem, too. Perhaps the “pilot and a half” airliner would only require a right seater with 250 hours? Likely the political climate that created the 1500 rule won’t allow this any time soon.

  5. American Eagle is offering a $5000 signing bonus even as USAirways management tells them they must cut pay to Pinnacle levels in order to renew their CPAs. All Delta Connection carriers have CPAs that basically reset to Pinnacle levels every 5 years. In short, the regionals are all looking at being forced to cut pay at the very time they must compete more than ever for pilots. Republic is so hard up for pilots that their Q400 classes are going unfilled, greatly slowing their addition of that type, and their AA E175 ops are rumored to be greatly delayed.

    You don’t mention the effect of the FAR 117 rest rule changes, either. Those SkyWest Brasillia pilots depend on flying 8 leg days to make pay. The rest regs will effectively limit them to 6, which means they could work minimum days off and still not crack 80 hours pay. While the CRJ pilots will likely lose 2 days off per month to retain their current pay level, the EMB pilots will lose 2 days and 5-10 hours pay. This might bring on something of Republic’s Q dynamic: new hires can refuse the low paying plane and hold out for better because the company is too desperate for pilots to rejet them for their snobbery.

    The 1500 hour rule won’t do much for safety. The Feds would have done vastly better to require 3-5 years as an FO prior to upgrading. If they insisted on flight time minima, single-pilot IFR teaches more and is more applicable to airline flying then being a CFI or towing banners. Commercial (and hence all weather, all hours) single-pilot IFR is an even better teacher.

    1. Interesting take on the issue. I like the idea of requiring a certain amount of time in the right seat before moving over to the left. Forces them to gain experience before moving up, but at the same time doesn’t raise the bar too high for would be pilots. Sadly, I think it will take an extreme pilot shortage or severe cutbacks in service to smaller cities before something like that is considered. Even then, negative stories about the rollback in required hours might derail it

      1. What everyone who says “1500 hours for more safety” overlooks two things: 1) it is that it is the Captain, not the FO, who sets the standard for safety in a cockpit and 2) experience in an airliner is better than most any other kind of experience. Put them together and you see that the best improvement to safety is requiring more time as FO before upgrading. As a Captain, I’d say most of my FOs are really truly ready to upgrade at 4 years. 4 winters of icy runways and Type IV de-ice, 4 summers of thunderstorms and squall lines. It usually takes at least a year or two for someone to be willing to say “hey, I think you’re plan is wrong, here’s my idea….”. Instead they say “I thought it was weird but I figured you knew what you were doing.” Those guys aren’t ready to lead newhire FOs, yet legally they can.

        I’m not saying flight time is irrelevant, and I won’t be sad to see more experience in the right seat or the effects of reduced pilot supply. Practically, though, I’d trade 1500 TT for 250 PIC on IFR flight plans. IFR is what we do, after all.

      2. Part 121.436(a)(3) of the new FAA reg requires 1,000 hours of flight time in air carrier operations (designed as ‘one full year’ but in reality about 1.5 years for a typical airline) or 500 hours in a multi-pilot military aircraft as SIC before switching to left seat. So there’s minimum time PLUS the 1,500 hour rule (PLUS ATP requirement, etc.).

    1. A formal test in a plane or simulator where a pilot must demonstrate competency over a government mandated list of skills, typically performed prior to first flight with passengers and annually thereafter.

  6. And just today, two small cities lose service: Lewistown and Miles City, Montana. I know, totally unrelated…

    1. You remind me what I forgot to bring up before. When every regional is fighting over the three remaining qualified pilots, why would anyone go work for Great Lakes or Silver? Those airlines offer the lowest pay and poorest quality of life in exchange for lower hiring minimums and fast upgrade. One of those will go away, at least, and while PIC time is always nice it still pays better to fly right seat at ExpressJet than left at Lakes. If Lakes can’t find pilots, more towns like Miles City will lose service.

      1. Going off topic…

        Lewistown and Miles City have commercial flights only because of the Essential Air Service Scheme – namely Federal subsidy. Miles City has a population of about 8,500 people and 591 emplanements in 2011, while Lewistown has a population of just 6,000 people with just 348 emplanements in 2011

        Is it *really* necessary for these 2 airports to have commercial air service ? Sounds to me as if these 2 towns losing air service is the right thing to happen

        1. According to Silver Airways, which used to run EAS flights to Lewistown and Miles City, the DOT pulled the two cities from the program. Still a valid point with some others that get EAS.

        2. Yes and no. EAS is a horribly inefficient way to serve some of these cities, but the public should support some form of access to these remote communities. Unfortunately, today EAS is the only game in town. Next month I need to get from the hi-line to southern Montana; I would have been happy to drive a car but nobody provides one-way rentals in the area, or take a bus but the only service is twice weekly. So I’m flying.

          1. Sounds like we need a more robust Amtrak network plus state-supported thruway (bus) connections. Better for the environment, cheaper, and more versatile.

            Thruway by definition must connect from the Amtrak rail trunk so it’s not what you think of when you think an intercity bus, ie the old Greyhound intercity highway service with local stops (Greyhound pulled out of this business for the most part anyway).

            For the few states that have this implemented it can be very effective. (Especially for those with medical conditions that prevent them from flying.)

  7. I’m prepared for some bashing over this, so bash away. I am IN FAVOR of the new ATP/1500 hour rules for part 121 FOs. Yes, it will be tough on some folks, both pilots and pax for a couple of years. It will also likely improve the quality of those pilots and, in less time than may think, substantially increase the sub-poverty wages now paid to first year regional pilots. Frankly, I don’t want to fly on any part 121 carrier who employs 500-hour wonder kids to do about half the flying. Will it cost us a little more? Probably and I’m OK with that. Over time, will it increase our safety? IMO, yes, and I’m damn sure OK with that. Now, bash away! Who wants to be first?

    1. All they’re doing is bringing air transportation in line with what’s already out there for ground transportation, that is to say Class A interstate freight hauling and rail crafts.

    2. You should not be looking at the quantity of flight hours, but instead, the quality of those flight hours. Is a flight instructor sitting in the right seat of an airplane for 1000+ hours of flight time adequately preparing him/herself for the skills and operation of a transport category aircraft? I’d venture a guess to say no.

      The problem with this line of thought is that the airlines are pretty much in agreement (as signified by their written comments to this NPRM) that a 500-750 hour pilot has far better training success than a 1500 hour pilot.

      1. It is the quality that matters, but ultimately the quality can wash out with around 1,500 hours – which is still a low amount of experience.

        As to, does 1000+ as a CFI make a better, more experienced pilot? Absolutely it does. I learned very little in my flight training compared to even just the first couple months as a flight instructor. I would even venture to say that the Colgan pilots may have responded to the stall correctly had either of them had experience as flight instructors – going through countless stalls, breaking them apart, and teaching off of them.

        Though strong preference is that any would be airline pilot instruct and fly cargo before carrying passengers. Both of these are invaluable experience that only makes pilots safer. A 250 hour commercial pilot knows very little by comparison.

        1. In no way does being an instructor make you more prepared. Maybe when it comes to theory. Only actual hands on the controls flying can do it. Instructors simply sit there and talk. I would trust a 500 hour hands on guy way before a 1000 hour flight instructor.

    3. @ No Fly Zone
      Please review the final rule, it enforces significantly more than 1500 hours prior to an ATP issuance. It introduces a new 14 CFR 61.156 which is an FAA mandated program that will significantly increase cost to the individual and an air carrier. This rule will decimate the industry within a few years. Between a significant decrease in domestic pilot starts (schools), Age 65 attrition, and forecast global demand, this increased cost barrier will further reduce attractiveness to this industry. As it stands, many 14 CFR 135 and smaller 14 CFR 121 carriers will be unable to financially comply with this regulation. Please see my executive summary on the final rule:

      Summary of Department of Transportation Docket No. FAA-2010-0100 regarding Pilot Certification and Qualification Requirements for Air Carrier Operations

      Prepared by Sam Stoterau and Michael Phillips, Ameriflight, LLC.

      The final rule and associated 14 CFR regulations creates new certification requirements for pilots in air carrier operations and any pilot seeking to obtain an Airline Transport Multiengine Class rating. The rule is the FAA?s answer to the requirements set forth in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010. Those requirements are as follows:

      1. § 61.23 Medical certificates: Requirement and duration

      All SICs over the age of 60 or those operating a flag or supplemental operation requiring a crew of three or more are required to maintain a first class medical.

      2. § 61.35 Knowledge test: Prerequisites and passing grades

      Requires a graduation certificate for the airline transport pilot certification program be presented prior to taking an ATP knowledge test after July 31, 2014.

      The applicant must now be at least 18 years of age when taking the ATP written for airplane category multiengine class rating.

      3. § 61.39 Prerequisites for practical tests

      Gives an applicant 60 months to conduct the practical portion of an ATP AMEL practical test if they completed the airline transport pilot certification program rather than the standard 24 months.

      4. § 61.71 Graduates of an approved training program other than under this part: Special Rules.

      Requires candidates enrolled in a §142 program to complete § 61.156

      5. § 61.153 Eligibility requirements: General

      Requires all persons after July 31, 2014 to complete the ATP CTP §61.156 before applying for the knowledge.

      6. § 61.155 Aeronautical knowledge

      After July 31, 2014 all candidates must complete § 61.156 if they have not previously completed a knowledge test. If a knowledge test has been completed prior to that date, the candidate has 24 months to complete the practical. If they fail, they must then complete the § 61.156 program.

      7. § 61.156 Training Requirements: Airplane Category ? Multiengine Class Rating or Airplane Type Rating Concurrently with Airline Transport Pilot Certificate

      After July 31, 2014 a person who applies for a knowledge test must present a graduation certificate from an authorized 121, 135, 141, or 142 training provider. This training program must include the following:
      ? 8 hours aerodynamics and high alt flight
      ? 2 hours meteorology
      ? 14 hours air carrier operations
      ? 6 hours CRM
      ? 10 hours FSTD training (6 hours FFS (level C or higher) using a device that represents an aircraft greater than 40,000 lbs, the Administrator may authorize deviations from the weight requirement), (4 hours FTD (level 4 or higher)

      8. § 61.159 Aeronautical experience: Airplane category rating

      Authorizes candidates enrolled in a 135, 121, 141, or 142 training program to credit no more than 25 hours in an approved FFS toward their instrument experience and 100 hour in an approved FSS toward their 1500 hour experience requirement. Provision for 25 hours in an FTD toward instrument experience have been removed.

      9. § 61.160 Aeronautical experience: Airplane category rating

      This regulation authorizes lower flight experience requirements for military, 4 year accredited school, 2 year degree from an accredited school and some 141 schools.

      10. § 61.165 Additional aircraft class category and ratings

      Individuals seeking an ATP or multi-engine type rating with an existing ATP in another category or class must comply with § 61.156. If an individual is seeking an additional single engine class ATP other than experience requirement, there is no other requirement.

      11. § 61.169 LOA for institutions of higher education

      Authorizes LOAs for institutions to administer § 61.156
      12. § 121.410 Airline Transport Pilot Certification Program

      This new regulation has been added to authorize 14 CFR 121 operators to administer the training program required by § 61.156. It must be separate from the air carrier?s training program.

      No person may be used as an instructor in this program unless they have at least two years of experience as PIC in § 91.1053(a)(2)(i) or § 135.243(a)(1), or as PIC or SIC in 121 operations and hold an ATP certificate.

      13. § 121.435 Pilot Qualification: Certificate and experience requirements

      As of August 1, 2013, all PICs (or SICs in command of an aircraft in flap or supplemental operation that requires three or more pilots) must hold an ATP certificate and appropriate PIC type rating.

      14. § 121.436 Pilot Qualification: Certificate and experience requirements

      As of August 1, 2014 all SICs must hold ATPs and PIC type ratings for the aircraft they are operating. SICs employed as of July 31, 2013 are grandfathered in and do not need to meet this requirement until January 1, 2016.

      If serving as PIC, has 1,000 hours as SIC in any combination of 121 operations, PIC under § 91.1053(a)(2)(i), or PIC under § 135.243(a)(1). These requirements do not apply if serving as PIC under 121 as of July 31, 2013.

      15. § 135.336 Airline Transport Pilot Certification Program

      This new regulation has been added to authorize 14 CFR 135 operators to administer the training program required by § 61.156. It must be separate from the air carrier?s training program.

      No person may be used as an instructor in this program unless they have at least two years of experience as PIC in § 91.1053(a)(2)(i) or § 135.243(a)(1), or as PIC or SIC in 121 operations and hold and ATP certificate.

      16. § 141.11 Pilot school ratings

      This regulation authorizes 14 CFR 141 training centers to conduct the Airline transport pilot certification program.

      17. § 141.33 Personnel

      No person may be used as an instructor in this program unless they have at least two years of experience as PIC in § 91.1053(a)(2)(i) or § 135.243(a)(1), or as PIC or SIC in 121 operations and hold an ATP certificate.

      18. § 142.54 Airline Transport Pilot Certification Program

      No person may be used as an instructor in this program unless they have at least two years of experience as PIC in § 91.1053(a)(2)(i) or § 135.243(a)(1), or as PIC or SIC in 121 operations and hold an ATP certificate.

      19. ATP Certification Training Program for an airplane category multiengine class rating or type rating.
      The FAA proposes adding § 61.154 which would require pilots seeking an ATP certificate with an airplane category multiengine class rating or type rating to complete specific training requirements prior to taking the ATP knowledge test. The curriculum would be completed through an approved training program that the FAA anticipates only being offered through part 141, 142, 121, and 135 operators.
      The training will be accomplished in two parts: 24 hours of classroom instruction and 16 hours of training in a flight simulation training device (FSTD). The class room instruction must include:
      ? 5 hours on high altitude operations, including aerodynamics and physiology
      ? 3 hours on meteorology, including adverse weather phenomena and weather radar
      ? 12 hours on air carrier operations, including turbine engines, transport category aircraft performance, automation, communications, checklist philosophy, and operational control
      The FSTD training must include:
      ? 8 hours in a Level C or higher full flight simulator on:
      o Low energy states/stalls
      o Upset recovery techniques
      o Adverse weather conditions, including icing, thunderstorms, and crosswinds with gusts
      ? 8 hours in a Level 4 or higher flight training device or full flight simulator on:
      o Aircraft performance
      o Navigation
      o Automation
      o Crew resource management
      This proposal would require each instructor of a § 61.154 training course hold an ATP certificate with an airplane category multiengine class rating, meet the aeronautical experience requirements of § 61.159, and have at least two years of experience as a pilot in operations under § 91.1053(a)(2)(i) or § 135.243(a)(1), or in any operation conducted under part 121.
      The FAA views this new training program as a basic certification requirement, not an air carrier training program requirement. Although part 121 and 135 carriers may elect to offer this training for their pilots, it would remain separate from the air carriers? training requirements. A principal operations inspector may approve a reduction of hours in an air carrier?s initial training program based on material covered in the ATP Certification Training Program, but may not reduce the requirements of § 61.154. The training outlined in § 61.154 will become mandatory effective August 1, 2013.

      5. ATP certificate with restricted privileges based on academic and military training.
      The FAA is proposing a new section, § 61.160, which provides for two alternative hour requirements for an ATP certificate with airplane multiengine class rating or type rating. They are:
      ? 750 hours for a military pilot
      ? 1,000 hours for a graduate of a four-year baccalaureate aviation-degree program who received their commercial certificate and instrument rating from an affiliated part 141 pilot school

      6. Minimum of 1,000 hours in air carrier operations to serve as PIC in part 121 operations.
      The FAA is proposing to add § 121.436 that would require a pilot to have 1,000 hours in air carrier operations prior to serving as PIC in part 121 operations. The 1,000 hours may be a combination of time as PIC in operations conducted under § 91.1053(a)(2)(i) or § 135.243(a)(1) or as SIC in part 121 operations. § 135.243(a)(1) includes operations in a turbojet airplane, an airplane having a passenger-seat count of 10 seats or more, or of a multiengine airplane in a commuter operations as defined in part 119.

    4. How will it improve pilot wages? There was nothing in Public Law 111-216 to increase wages. And now 14 CFR 117 reduces the number of hours pilots can fly per month, which reduces wages.

  8. I definitely fall into the category of would-have-been airline pilot. Was working my way up to 600hrs total (what most regionals REALLY hire at) when this rule kicked in and hit the final nail on the coffin. Working at a regional and experiencing the meager pay and quality of life conditions didn’t help my motivation much either. Since the new regs only affected part 121 (scheduled commercial flights), then on to US charters and private puddle jumpers.

    As for the industry, the regional model is destined for failure in the current industry. Like AA, any regional which hasn’t declared bankruptcy will find it the only way to reduce costs even further. As a first year dispatcher when I started mid-2000s, I made under $15/hr working +60 flights/day. The contract hasn’t changed and the company (and all regionals) have only asked for cuts and rtefuse to negociate pay increases. What has changed? Majors have played regionals against each other in a race to the bottom, forcing them to take unprofitable contracts for the sake of keeping planes flying.

    Look for vastly different regional landscape in the next 5-10 years similar to what the majors went through since 2000. In the mean time, anyone looking for a well qualified, low experienced pilot with industry experience? =-)

  9. The airlines will just need to subcontract with Emirates to fly all their A380’s between Dubuque and Paducah :-)

    Maybe the Feds should have started lower and maybe raised the hours to 500 and looked more into changing work rules to improve safety.

  10. Perhaps the majors, esp. Delta, are attempting to get pay down before they may have to increase it in the future. About to retire after 24 years w/ a regional, and glad to go at a good time. Only if ALL the regionals stand together and refuse cuts to pay & bennies will the race to the be the lowest cost carrier stop. ALPA isn’t doing a damn thing to help with this BTW, heck MECs of the regionals seem to agree with managements!

  11. Unfortunately the details are a little off in this article. Congress mandated the ATP requirement, not the FAA. This rule rule actually reduces the number of hours required for many pilots to obtain an ATP. If you are a military pilot you oly need 750 hours and if you graduated from a four year aviation program you oly need 1000 hours. This rule actually helps to mitigate the poor law that congress passed following the Colgan crash.

    1. Steven – I will direct you to this paragraph in the post:

      Congress decided it was time to toughen up pilot rules back in 2010. It?s taken awhile, but the FAA has now finally put the rule into place that follows what Congress directed the administration to do.

      Congress passed a law that directed the FAA to put this rule into place. FAA did what it could to carve out exceptions but it’s still not very much.

  12. as a 28,000 hour airline pilot….. PILOTS WITH LESS THAN 1500 hrs HAVE NO BUSINESS FLYING REGIONAL JETS…selling a ticket on colgan and advertising it as continental express is a switch and bait tactic …deceiving the flying public scheme

    1. I agree. Regionals should have planes painted in their own livery. People are duped on regionals to thinking they are on mainline metal. Many wouldn’t fly a regional if it was operated under their own name. I am one that avoids regionals when possible, but mostly because I hate the CRJ’s.

      Not sure how I feel about the 1500 hours rule. Lots of careers require a lot of training for little pay. Only supply and demand will fix that. Hours on the job, certifications, passed tests, etc. are our only quantitative measurements and are valid IMO.

  13. Wait. I sense a new fee coming. “Pilot Experience and hours surcharge.” 10 dollars per segment to recoupe the cost of raising pilot pay on regional carriers.

    1. Somebody did a calculation that the regionals would only need to add $1.46 per seat and then the pilots would have a decent living wage. But they won’t do that. They focus on the bottom line to please investors.

  14. As a previous airline Capt. with over 29000 hrs, the first thing i would say is flying is a talent , i started flying at 15 and had my first job as a B727 FO at age 23 ,, from start to end of career i never failed a check ride . These 2 pilots RIP , failed check rides several times , which in my book is not acceptable to fly passengers . Also at age 47 and flying for a regional ? The source of qualified pilots during my days was the military, supply has dried here , and those regionals are hiring very inexperienced pilots who are buying licenses printed by training outfits like Gulfstream Airlines where they pay to get a SIC position, i.e buy a job. I avoid regionals and never fly them even if i have to drive. And the second issue is the very low slavery pay. 1500 hrs should be a minimum and it is not much at all, even if ticket prices have to go up, it is better than kicking the bucket.

    1. Actually, this piece of legislation was pushed hard by the families that lost their loved ones on that Colgan plane which cratered into some poor sap’s house in 2009.

      1. Actually most of what they pushed for wasn’t implemented. They were looking for stronger rest rules (which they got, except small carriers like Great Lakes and Silver can avoid these due to size dictating part 135 rest rules), stricter training requirements at the commercial license level in particular dealing with stall recovery techniques, and better disclosure of what airline is actually flying your flight.

        The 1500 hour rule was the “fix” that didn’t really fix anything. The first officer in the Colgan Q400 crash had 1,470 hours… if only she had 30 more. Get real, 1500 hours flying in an airplane that isn’t even allowed to enter icing conditions is not how you prepare for this kind of flying.

        And to respond to the $22/hour that Skywest receives, Great Lakes starts at $16.25/hour @ 75 hours/month guarantee. That comes out to about $14,600 your first year. Check this site out to see how sad the pay is – And not surprisingly they are experience a desperate shortage. So the solution? Fly their pilots as hard and as much as possible. Cancellations and cities losing service is not far away.

      2. This piece of legislation FAILED on its own in Congress several times, until it was appended on the coattails of HR 5900 which was an FAA appropriations (funding) bill. If President Obama had not signed HR 5900, the FAA would have run out of money & shut down on August 2, 2010. So of course he had to sign. And this frivolous legislation masquerading as the Airline Safety and Pilot Improvement Act came along with it.

  15. One mistake. You still only need a commercial pilot rating to carry passengers for hire. The change was to the First Officer requirements for Part 121 scheduled air services. First Officer requirements for Part 91 fractional ownership operations, and part 135 charters, do not appear to have been changed.

    To your point, this will dramatically reduce the number of available pilots for the regionals. The result of a smaller labor pool will be an increase in salary. Regionals will now be looking at a similar labor pool (1,500 hours, ATP certificate) as higher paying pilot positions.

    As for the previously and current regional airline First Officer pay being low, part of the reason it was low was because building hours was a form of compensation. It is very difficult to build the hours needed to be competitive for a major airline. There are two ways to get the hours: either flying military airplanes, or getting a job in the regionals. But those days are over. You need the hours going into the regionals now.

    This change will accelerate the retirement of 50-seat and smaller aircraft, and significantly reduce operations into smaller cities.

    Another important consideration is the fact ALPA, the large airline pilot union, has pushed for the change. ALPA historically supports actions aimed to increase safety and qualifications for pilots. ALPA has also successfully organized the pilots of many regional airlines over the last several years. How ALPA handles the hundreds of current regional pilots impacted by this will be interesting to follow.

  16. I wanted to be a career pilot for the longest time – but the combination of factors like poor pay, long hours, time away from home, lack of career stability and security, etc, led me to a different career path (still in aviation, but in professional services). The seniority system also really bothers me, as I’d much rather be awarded based on my own merit. I know plenty of pilots who “fly for peanuts”, and it’s a shame because the airlines who employ them seem to leverage their passion for flying as a way to get a lower wage. I don’t think the legislation is the right solution to this particular situation, but over time I think it will improve the quality of life for professional pilots, IMO.

  17. You didn’t say what you were talking about when you said “small city.” Just the EAS cities? Or, the many cities that used to have mainline aircraft service but now, because the mainline carriers decided it, have nothing but regional carrier service.

    Not sure EAS will survive much longer, but for all those other cities, their days may numbered, as well. Personally, all I care about is that guy or gal flying me is really qualified and provides me a decent service.

    Many a time I’ve been the only passenger on an early morning EAS single pilot, Cape Air 9-passenger, C402 from BWI to my beloved Lancaster, Pa. Shocking what those pilots are paid, but darn it, I always felt safe with that airline and their pilots. Probably has had little to do with FAA “hours” rules, just that Cape Air has decided, for whatver reason, to provide its customers a very nice service. Sadly, Cape Air dropped out of this market, for reasons that are many.

    I don’t think FAA needs to get involved with pilot pay or how well airlines provide customer service. If they say an hours-requirement is in my best interests, whatever the hours number is, I’m OK with it. Not convinced the new rules in and of themselves will change much of anything.

    I’m at a stage in my life where 2 routes particularly concern me: Dulles to Las Vegas and Dulles to Lancaster, Pa. I’ve come to rely on basically 2 carriers: UA (and, when I just can’t take UA any longer, Southwest) and Sun Air International (explain them, if you will.) I pray those carriers have qualfied people and look to FAA to come up with pilot rules to keep me safe.

    From UA, to WN, to Sun Air. Quite a group, it is! (Add in Allegiant and Silver (neither of which I’ve ever used, and well, what’s left?)

    1. JayB – By small city, I mean more non-subsidized cities than subsidized ones. If costs go up, then the government will have to increase EAS subsidies to keep those routes going. For non-subsidized routes, however, there is no offset like that.

  18. I blogged about the upcoming pilot shortage last year (The Upcoming Pilot Shortage…… Made Worse by the Federal Government, July 25, 2012). I agree with you and I re-blogged your article. An earlier poster was correct. There are plenty of pilots and prospective pilots out there, just none willing to spend 100K to get licensed and rack up 1500 hours for 22K a year. My son and son-in-law are military pilots and hopefully they will go straight to a major when their obligation is up.

  19. Be careful not to frame this as an increase from 250 to 1500. While 250 hours previously was the legal minimum to get hired as a First Officer at a regional airline, far more than 250 hours was generally required to be competitive for those positions; often more than 1500 was necessary. It was only a couple of times and only in the past decade or so that the regionals had trouble finding experienced pilots to fill their classes and had to drop their hiring minimums below 500 hours.

    As some other commenters have pointed out, the “pilot shortage” would more aptly be described as a shortage of pilots willing to work for what now is the standard at the regionals. Working for these companies has become less and less appealing as the cutthroat battle to minimize costs has decimated pay. The eventual goal that most regional pilots are working towards has moved farther away as well, as more and more mainline flying was outsourced to the regional carriers. This has led many pilots to leave the regionals for other segments of aviation, or even to leave flying altogether.

    There are plenty of experienced pilots out there, but the regionals don’t want to pay the higher wages necessary to attract them. Instead, they have conveniently taken the position that experience doesn’t matter, and have dropped their hiring minimums to attract brand new pilots who (at first) are too excited to be flying shiny jets to care about how little money they’re making.

    As for accumulating the 1500 hours to break into the regionals? New pilots can do it the same way countless others have before them. There are a variety of jobs available to low time pilots that they can use to build valuable experience. I finished my flight training about a year ago and have accumulated about 800 hours since then as a flight instructor and aerial survey pilot. While the pay and schedule leave something to be desired, I’ve actually earned more in that time than many pilots would on first year FO pay at some regionals. Is it frustrating to have to wait this long when some companies where hiring at 500 total time when I began my training? Absolutely. But I’m happy to wait if it means a fair wage when I do reach the magic 1500 hours.

    Despite the objections from some low time pilots eager to move up to regionals, I think the new rules are good for a profession that has been under assault for the past decade. For the travelling public, I think it helps to preserve the industry’s sterling safety record as well. The extra experience helps, but perhaps more important is making sure that the airline pilot profession remains appealing enough to continue to attract skilled professionals.

  20. I agree with your blog Mr. Snyder. You’re preaching to the choir. I wrote a similar article on my blog about the new 1,500 hour rule to get an atp certificate just to become a first officer on a regional airline. As I state on my blog, I can understand it being required for the captain of a regional airline. I also make reference to Colgan Air Flt 3407, noting that the flight crews schedules had them up at very odd hours and examining their behaviors the morning going into the crash. Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger himself could have been flying that plane and if he’d been too fatigued to do the job, I doubt he would have even had a safe outcome.

    I am a new pilot about to get my private certificate with the goal of one day being a captain for the major airlines. While I’m fortunate to get my advanced flight training paid for because I am a veteran of the armed forces, I understand the pressure and depression that comes with being thousands of dollars in debt and no real idea how it’s gonna pay off. That was my case when I was in college. I busted my butt 5 years for a bachelor’s degree that never paid off. And the interest grew substantially each day. To only be making an annual salary of $21,000 and have flight training debt in the ballpark of $50,000-$100,000 is almost begging to ask the question: “Do you want to commit suicide?”

    I think the way the new rule needs to be structured is as follows: require 1,500 hrs for a captain at a regional airline. Once a new commercial pilot with 250 hours passes his commercial checkride, let him be eligible to get hired on as a first officer candidate working at a regional airline, learning from the captains and building up jet time. In the mean time, they can get their atp cert. faster by building jet time at the same time as instructing. This ensures that they won’t by no means be eating prime rib for a while, but they can at least get a little more compensation than a bag of peanuts and support a family if they are married and have kids. A sad story I know of is first officers who have to share an apartment with maybe 3 or 4 other pilots just to make rent and bills. Only to meet the basic costs of living!

    The problem with a lot of instructors is they only fly Cessna and Piper training equipment for a majority of their time until they reach 1,500 hrs and get type-rated. My feeling is that the sooner they can move on to a regional and learn from the captain, the more jet time they can build, thus the safer I think they can become. One of my co-instructors has about 1,000 hrs or so, and has yet to even see his high-altitude endorsement. It makes more sense to start learning to fly Canadair, Embraer, Boeing, and Airbus equipment sooner rather than be made to wait 10 or however many years just because of simply not having many hours. It was not a lack of time that the pilots of Colgain Air Flt 3407 lacked. They were just too fatigued and improperly trained to do the job. Anyone is welcome to visit my blog at

    1. In response to Matt’s post, “Once a new commercial pilot with 250 hours passes his commercial checkride, let him be eligible to get hired on as a first officer candidate working at a regional airline, learning from the captains and building up jet time.”

      I couldn’t disagree with that statement any more. I understand your an aspiring pilot, but your lack of experience is exactly why you don’t understand what your saying. Yes, the captain does have more experience and should be mentoring fo’s to become captain one day. However, when everything is going to hell in a hand basket, there is not enough time to hold your hand and make sure your up to speed. You really need to have a “crew member” who has the ability to be engaged in the situation. I do have to concede that some pilots absolutely possesses that ability with very little experience, but some don’t. Having more experience certainly wont hurt the pilot with a better natural ability, and that same experience may just save a lot of lives with the pilot that isn’t so naturally gifted. You may be Chuck Yeager, and if you are you’ll still be Chuck Yeager after 1500 hours.

      Another aspect of the higher minimum times is the barrier to entry will discourage some of people who lack the motivation and desire to be a pilot. If someone really wants to be an airline pilot adding a year or two of education and experience wont matter much. For the people who are more interested image of the profession, or instant gratification, or only chasing money, they probably wont enjoy the job anyway. I’m surprised at the number of people who get into aviation by accident or for the wrong reasons. These pilots usually lack the motivation and professionalism to stay current and informed to be effective in emergency situations and the traveling public is probably better off with some of them.

      That’s the opinion of this regional jet captain with 14 years aviation experience.

  21. This pilot says you are spot on Cranky. Corporate greed, competition, and the false sense that the regional industry is “low cost” killed the goose that was laying golden eggs. The end game is a much smaller regional industry that is niche, high cost (as it always kind of was), and used only where needed. The result for the passenger, with less travel disruptions, should justify the slightly higher cost.

    My 6,500 hours of regional jet time (over 4,200 flights!) does not make me safe or competent to fly skydivers off a grass strip, tow a glider, pick up a banner, etc… without good training in that specific situation. Flight instructing in a multi-engine aircraft again would require knocking off a lot of rust. The reverse is obviously true.

    As a captain, I want a 500 hour FO that is rested, motivated, happy, relaxed, not worried about paying the electric bill, bulletproof on procedures and callouts, and has extensive sim training. The airlines coughing up the money for a few touch and go’s, and rejected landings, at 2am, with a crosswind, would seal the deal.

    A transport category aircraft does not require a magic number of hours to be flown safely.

    1. Corporate greed? Maybe I’ll call it that when they make 15% profit margins consistently, which is yet to be seen in the airline business. Last time I checked, they need to make money as well to support the thousands of people working for them. It’s not corporate greed, it’s simply dynamic economics and changing landscapes that make certain models better than others. Ten years ago, 50-seat RJs were sustainable at $40/barrel. That’s not the case at $120/barrel and thus larger aircraft have lower costs per ASM. The regional industry definitely WAS lower cost back then! However, the industry would be in a whole lot more trouble now if the wide-scale use of small 50-seat RJs were to continue (hence the plans in place by numerous carriers to acquire larger 76-seaters and phase out 50-seaters). It’s a shame that people have to pay the price with their jobs and lower pay, but it’s just the nature of the business we’re in.

  22. I just want to thank everyone for the comments today. This has been one of the most interesting comment threads for me personally.

  23. The regionals have destroyed the career of many pilots. I think the regional jet was a grand scheme by the industry execs in which they knew in a very short period of time that the RJ would canvas all of North America where thousands of RJs being flown by underpaid flight crews would one day carry over 50% of all commercial traffic. And that is exactly what happened! An RJ was never supposed to fly from Chicago to Austin or Salt Lake City to Houston. Now the execs at the majors and the regionals want even more! They essentially want their cake and to eat it too. And it is happening. Big RJs which equals more revenue stuffed in the tube and now even lower paid pilots. Funny how the larger the plane the more pay concept works at the majors but not at the regionals.
    It is shameful! I will never forget one of my first trips as a regional first officer where the Captain said, “welcome to xxxxx Air Lines, where careers come to die.”And he was totally right!
    And now US Air wants a B pay scale at American Eagle. And in return Mr. Parker of US Air will bless us with “large RJs”. How nice of him. How can the pay go any lower? Oh, that’s right, it is a regional air line. Anything goes. At least today the union shot down that demand. Hopefully other regionals will do the same in the future.

  24. In response to Matt’s post, “Once a new commercial pilot with 250 hours passes his commercial checkride, let him be eligible to get hired on as a first officer candidate working at a regional airline, learning from the captains and building up jet time.”

    I couldn’t disagree with that statement any more. I understand your an aspiring pilot, but your lack of experience is exactly why you don’t understand what your saying. Yes, the captain does have more experience and should be mentoring fo’s to become captain one day. However, when everything is going to hell in a hand basket, there is not enough time to hold your hand and make sure your up to speed. You really need to have a “crew member” who has the ability to be engaged in the situation. I do have to concede that some pilots absolutely posesses that ability with very little experience, but some don’t. Having more experience certainly wont hurt the pilot with a better natural ability, and that same experience may just save a lot of lives with the pilot that isn’t so naturally gifted. You may be Chuck Yeager, and if you are you’ll still be Chuck Yeager after 1500 hours.

    Another aspect of the higher minimum times is the barrier to entry will discourage some of people who lack the motivation and desire to be a pilot. If someone really wants to be an airline pilot adding a year or two of education and experience wont matter much. For the people who are more interested image of the profession, or instant gratification, or only chasing money, they probably wont enjoy the job anyway. I’m surprised at the number of people who get into aviation by accident or for the wrong reasons. These pilots usually lack the motivation and professionalism to stay current and informed to be effective in emergency situations and the traveling public is probably better off with some of them.

    That’s the opinion of this regional jet captain with 14 years aviation experience.

  25. Oh poor crybaby airline industry.

    The Feds prohibited them from imprisoning people on the tarmac, and they predicted it would be a disaster. Guess what: the appropriate measures were taken, cooperation were none existed was initiated, and people are significantly at lower risk for arguably hardly any cost.

    More of the same here. WHINING WHINING WHINING. Thankfully Congress made the FAA do something it should have done a long time ago (improving the qualifications, not necessarily through the increase in # of hours).

    Yes, supply and demand will lead to an increase in pay for a dwindling pool of qualified pilots. Yes, this will translate into sightly higher fares for “smaller” communities. And, yes, you and I will have a lower risk of getting killed, or having a loved one killed, by an airline. And I’m very, very, very glad for that.

    1. The tarmac delay laws were not without repercussion. Before the law it may have taken you a few extra hours waiting for a delayed airplane, or you may have sat waiting to take off for a long time, but you got to where you were going. Now with the obscene fines imposed for a three hour tarmac delay airlines just cancel flights and dump hundreds of stranded passengers in the airport with a coupon for 10% off a hotel room.

    2. Your sentiment I understand, but your conclusions I feel are incorrect. We’re facing a loss of >3000 pilots/yr for retirement without that many coming to replace them. (Their replacements would consume >4.5 *million* flight training hours annually, pretty much an impossible number). With a shrinking roster of pilots their is no choice but to fly fewer flights, to fewer cities, in larger planes.

      You might think 1500 hours would improve safety, but its not likely. Has any accident or incident happened with someone with fewer hours? None that I am aware of. But here’s the wrinkle we’ll be facing now. When the supply of pilots is plentiful, airlines can pick and choose among them for skill, knowledge, character, personality. When the supply is reduced the airline can’t turn people away. I know of one airline that is cold calling people who failed training in years past and asking if they want a second shot. The pressure to pass them these days is enormous. Any stubborn idiot can get 1500 hours, and now he’s assured of a job and all but assured to pass training. Here’s another wrinkle: the GA fatality rate is 1.3/100k hours. That suggests a death rate of 1% for wannabe airline pilots.

      1. Very good point about a reduction in supply potentially causing a degradation in quality. That presumes that airlines currently screened effectively for quality, and after reading the NTSB report of the Colgan accident (and a few others) I am not so sure.

  26. In response to Matt’s post, “Once a new commercial pilot with 250 hours passes his commercial checkride, let him be eligible to get hired on as a first officer candidate working at a regional airline, learning from the captains and building up jet time.”

    I couldn’t disagree with that statement any more. I understand your an aspiring pilot, but your lack of experience is exactly why you don’t understand what your saying. Yes, the captain does have more experience and should be mentoring fo’s to become captain one day. However, when everything is going to hell in a hand basket, there is not enough time to hold your hand and make sure your up to speed. You really need to have a “crew member” who has the ability to be engaged in the situation. I do have to concede that some pilots absolutely posesses that ability with very little experience, but some don’t. Having more experience certainly wont hurt the pilot with a better natural ability, and that same experience may just save a lot of lives with the pilot that isn’t so naturally gifted. You may be Chuck Yeager, and if you are you’ll still be Chuck Yeager after 1500 hours.

    Another aspect of the higher minimum times is the barrier to entry will discourage some of people who lack the motivation and desire to be a pilot. If someone really wants to be an airline pilot adding a year or two of education and experience wont matter much. For the people who are more interested image of the profession, or instant gratification, or only chasing money, they probably wont enjoy the job anyway. I’m surprised at the number of people who get into aviation by accident or for the wrong reasons. These pilots usually lack the motivation and professionalism to stay current and informed to be effective in emergency situations and the traveling public is probably better off with some of them.

    That’s the opinion of this regional jet captain with 14 years aviation experience.

    1. Chuck Yeager could never afford the $120,000 it would cost to buy flight time to get from 250 hours to 1,500 which doesn’t include the $30,000 in training he’d already spent. Chuck Yeager never would have been a pilot.

      That’s what you’re missing. The good pilots at 250 hours will not continue to be pilots. There’s no way to get to 1,500 hours because there are no jobs they’re eligible for until they get to 1,500 hours. It’s aviation’s greatest Catch 22, and nobody is catching on.

      There is bias everywhere. You can’t ask pilots with the time because they were just made infinitely more valuable. Of course they love the rule. Their pay is about to go up because they drastically limited the supply of people who do what they do.

      Still, nobody has stopped to consider that the captain of Colgan 3407 would still qualify under these rules. He had an ATP and over 1,500 hours.

      There is no increase in safety here. It wouldn’t have prevented the crash, and it has completely over-looked the safety issues that will be created by guys doing whatever they need to in order to get 1,500 hours just so they can stop paying $100/hr and start getting paid $25/hr to fly. I could rent a Piper Cub, literally let it sit on the ramp with the engine running for 1,500 hours, and I would qualify. With no jobs, let’s say someone flies that Piper Cub around for 1,500 hours, practicing maneuvers and doing everything he can to honestly build his experience. IT’S STILL A PIPER CUB! There is more relevant airline experience available with Microsoft Flight Simulator than with a single engine piston aircraft, and as much as that may sound like an exaggeration, it’s not. I used to have my commercial and instrument students go home and practice approaches on Flight Sim.

      And I repeat: the captain of Colgan 3407 would still qualify under these rules. He had an ATP and over 1,500 hours.

      Source: 3,300 hours as an airline pilot and far too many as a flight instructor.

  27. The regionals are making noise about the coming pilot shortage, but the majors are denying it. The difference is that the majors will benefit from a pilot shortage crippling the regional low-cost airlines, they want this shortage.

    If the industry waits until service is being cut all over the country, it will be a “crisis”, that can’t be fixed by raising pay and waiting years for pilots who will be paid more. The only fix will be to lower standards, thus lowering pay and costs for the airlines. The airlines would much rather lower standards and pay than raise pay. The airlines want this to be fixed after it becomes a “crisis”, not before.

  28. A possible unintended consequence to repealing the 1500-hour rule would be the situation in India right now. Their instructors have mostly been hired at the airlines, they have a pilot shortage already and now most of their flight schools are shut down. They are recruiting and training civil servants to become instructors, I’m not sure how they’ll keep them from leaving. They are considering using military pilots as instructors.

    Our schools in the US have been steadily shutting down for many years, we don’t have a lot of capacity for the massive demand coming. Nearly every pilot getting their CFII did it to get into the airlines, not to make a career of instructing. They aren’t going to turn down a job at the airlines.

    1. I’m a flight instructor and meet all the requirements for the old and new ATP rules requirements. There is NO WAY I am going to work for a regional airline. I rather stay doing flight instructing work than get abused by a regional airline. It’s simply not worth it. I’ve heard enough horror stories from reserve and line pilots to know better.

  29. News flash: Seniority at an airline is hire date, NOT EXPERIENCE!!! So you could have a Captain that has less experience than the first officer but just got hired before him/her.

  30. ERIC C You/re right on. The best way to get a new startup airline operation going is to employ 9 psgr aircraft that can be certified as single pilot operation, with a co-pilot that an airline can employe to assist ground handling. There’s a great benefit to this thinking. That’s certainly better than building time flying around cow pastures as a CFI, or small town single engine pilot.

    In my opinion, using this co-pilot procedure on 19 psgr aircraft should also be approved by the FAA, since most of those aircraft can be flown by one pilot.

    then again, what about corporate pilots who are constantly flying in and out of different cities on high performance aircraft as a single pilot.?

    As to the comment of commuter/regional airlines painting their aircraft like their major partner: I’ve fought this from day one, like back about ’82. It absolutely is a deceptive marketing practice. In the small town area where I’m located, as a matter of observation, there’s many people still think the local regional airline is the major partner airline. and are quite surprised when you explain how it’s a deceptive marketing practice. CODE-SHARING SHOULD BE OUTLAWED. That all started back when the commuter airline could appear on the same computer screen page to a particular destination, thus where the deceptiveness all started. However, nowadays with newer computerization programs, a commuter should have no reason a customer can’t find its flights.

    Nine passenger commuter aircraft just cannot be justified and be able to charge enough to cover a high paid co-pilot. They have to charge high enough fares to compete with surface transportation.

    I have developed a sophisticated Excel program that will show the marginality of profit in just about any aircraft….believe me, the smaller the aircraft, the harder it is to make a profit. Having to pay a higher paid 1,500 hour co-pilot is impossible to justify…even on a 19 seat aircraft.

    In some ways, if a small commuter can hire 250 hour co-pilots, they may stay a while to offset their training expenses by the airline. Somehow, a commuter has to recover their time and expense of training pilots. As a rule, pilots will jump ships at the drop of a hat as it is.

    That’s a main reason there are no very small new startup commuter airlines…just can’t afford it, and investors will need to see how the airline will do with as little capital as possible, since it’s a three to five year investment at best to begin to turn a profit.

    EAS carriers might be a way to offset it, because they can include that in their bid to DOT. Non-subsidized commuter airlines cannot just bump up the price per ticket. Then again, more EAS airports will be dropped from the EAS program.

  31. It’s somewhat disrespectful to see these 20000+ hour pilots constantly slamming regional pilots. Frankly, the regionals are in business and its pilots are in this position because of the downward pressure placed on them by mainline pilots. Essentially mainline pilots fight and fight and fight for more money and increased benefits, which adversely affects the regionals (need to lower costs for mainline partners). The disparity between a regional FO and mainline FO is striking, and when you throw this 1500 min into the equation it will only make the situation worse. Experience matters, and should be judged and PAID for more equally than it is, instead of this regional vs mainline battle.

  32. Do you want your surgeon to attend medical school, then do one year of residency (i.e. 250 hours of flight time), or do you want that surgeon to do a fully four or five years of residency after medical school, plus a couple more years of a fellowship? The reality is that at 250 hours of flight time, a pilot barely has any experience. I don’t want that pilot flying me or my family during an emergency in poor weather. John G, Delta Air Lines

    1. Pilot training to become an airline pilot costs about the same amount or more than training to become a doctor. And yet pilots make about 10% or less of what the doctor makes.

      My numbers may be slightly off here, but they are close.

  33. You can still get CFI and CFI-I and get your experience, like many pilots did before. You don’t need 1,500 for any other commercial jobs, such as Part 135, 141, 61, etc, only Part 121. 250 is not enough experience to fly as an airline pilot with 76+ passengers on board. I’m an airline pilot in one of the major airline in US and I flew in regionals and and had an experience to fly with on of those 250 hours pilots… I had to be an instructor again and worry about safety of my passengers and working twice as hard with an inexperienced pilots like that.
    I do support FAA in their judgment of increasing rule to 1500.

    1. It’s getting harder to find student pilots to teach these days, since not as many people want to be pilots as in year past. (You can check the stats on about new pilot starts.) So who are all of these CFIs going to teach? Foreign students for some schools. But less & less USA students.

      1. You are right on the money. The pool of student pilots is decreasing!! Who am I to instruct? And I live in a large metropolitan area (about 4 million people) Not to mention, the economy generally across the United States currently is weak at best. People do not have the money for flight training that they once had. During my training I flew with graduates of 4 year aviation universities. Some were good, some were bad. Many of these people went to the regionals with only 600 hours or less. But I think that even if they had 1500 hours it would not have changed a thing. My point is that 250 hours is way too few, yet 1500 hours too much. I think 850 or 900 hours would be a good compromise for all-

  34. Dear Brett,

    A few misnomers/inaccuracies esp w/r/t the new upgrade requirements and DOT Essential Air Service, which have been corrected by others in the comments.

    Please note (numbered for reference, not priority):

    1) The new Public Law 111-216 (the official number of the new ATP regs we are all talking about here) says NOTHING about pilot pay. It will not increase pilot pay & the supply/demand theories that say it will are incorrect.

    2) The new 14 CFR 117 rest requirements will have an effect of decresing pilot pay, b/c of decreasing a pilot’s number of flights per month and increasing their time away from home each month, unless unions are able to negotiate better base pay.

    3) Lobbyists (representing the families of Colgan Air 3407 crash pax) tried several times AND FAILED to get their new legislation passed. It was ONLY when they tacked their new legislation onto an FAA appropriations bill H.R. 5900 that this new legislation was passed by the House & Senate.
    If President Obama had not signed H.R. 5900 into law on Aug 1, 2010, the FAA would have had to shut down & close doors the next day. (3 years before we learned the word “sequestration”). Of course we can’t let the FAA close down, of course Mr. Obama had to sign HR 5900. But coattailing unrelated legislation on it was not fair.

    Check out the text of the law:

    Public Law 111?216
    111th Congress
    An Act
    To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the funding and expenditure
    authority of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, to amend title 49, United
    States Code, to extend airport improvement program project grant authority
    and to improve airline safety, and for other purposes.

    4) Both pilots of Colgan Air 3407 had way more than 1500 hours. It was other factors that led to this accident. Fatigue & incorrect pilot responses were the big factors. The legislation addressess some of the other factors.

    @djsk : Looking for a bright F/O? I’m your gal! (And I have 1075 TT.)

  35. The 1,500 hour rule is a farce. It’s all about the training. Putting in years of time building in a small single engine airplane certainly doesn’t relate to operating a transport category passenger jet in a multi-crew environment.

    This is not going to make air travel safer, just more laborious to get employed. Two things will make is safer…. better money and better hours.

    I work for a regional jet company and make $36/hour in my third year. That’s what they tell you you’re making… but, in reality it’s about $21/hr because I generally only get paid for about 60% of the time I’m working. Not a lot of money to operate a $25,000,000 aircraft and be responsible for 50 lives every flight. Lacking a livable wage attracts less than the brightest minds to this career.

    Last week my company worked me six straight days for a total of 75 hours of duty and only 56 hours of off-duty. When I finally called in fatigued they gave me a hard time and was made I couldn’t safely operate the aircraft. At least the FAA got this right and are instituting new duty time regulations this January.

  36. Well crap! I don’t much care how those boys and girls get their hours, CFI, hauling freight or doing charters, but I do NOT want that 250 hour miracle kid flying my fanny on a commuter airplane. I don’t want to see any more of those stupid accidents – ‘pilot error’ and ‘pilot fatigue’ or ‘inexperience’ being the usual causes. I’d suggest a five-year grace on the ATP certificate, but maintain the 1500 hour total time requirement. Of course the wages are too low, but we all have to pay our low-wage dues to enter any profession. Wages are a union/company problem and they will sort it out. No matter how great the training, no one with 250 hours – realistically 500+ hours, has the necessary skill and experience to drive for me; I’m fully supportive of the new 1500 hour rule. Those pilot applicants with the necessary 1500 hours are far less likely to be inattentive, do stupid things and/or fly when they should be on the ground. If the 1500 hour rule holds, the wages will come up a bit in short order. And for a more realistic look at wages, let’s talk about their second year as a newbie First Officer. The pay rates are much better. The first year in almost any profession is little more than an internship and even pilots are not really carrying their share of the responsibility. Into their second year, they have value, have demonstrated their skill and are paid a lot more.
    As much as I love to support pilots, This one needs a second look. Again, I’d support a five-year grace for the ATP certificate (i is expensive and a real challenge) and instantly support the 1500 hour rule for new hires. A 250-500 hour pilot simply does not have the experience or maturity to accept responsibility for the lives of 50-100 pax (general commuter size). In the flying profession there is NO substitute for experience. Those kids with 250-500, even 1000 hours are still sprouting and still learning. Even at the 1000 hour mark, look at their log books! What kind of experience do they really have? The vast majority of them have racked up hours instructing other wannabe pilots in airplanes rarely larger than a C172. Where and how does more than 10% of that time really connect to flying in a commercial operation and carrying 50-100 pax? Perhaps 10% is generous. When I fly on even a commuter airliner, I want to see TWO pilots who have done a lot more that teach someone how to land in a crosswind – in a C172. How many of them have EVER flown about FL150 or the magic FL180? Darn few. Fifteen hundred hours is NOT unreasonable for a pilot responsible for 50-100 lives.

  37. I think something really crucial is being overlooked here. 1500 hrs can be 1 hr flown 1500 times. It’s not the number of hours so much as the type of hours. Anyone with half a brain can be taught SOP procedures and to fly for an airline. But the two biggest factors in many crashes like Buffalo, Air France, San Francisco etc. are a lack of situational awareness and basic “stick and rudder” skills.

    Believe me, the pilots we worry about when we climb into the cockpit aren’t the ones who are green when it comes to procedures and pushing buttons. That just makes us work harder. The ones that really concern us are the pilots who might freak out when the shit hits the fan, and who lack basic “stick and rudder” skills. In the end, a plane is a plane whether it’s a Cessna or an airliner. You pull up, the plane goes up. You pull up more, the plane goes down.

    So what I propose is that ALL commercial pilots undergo extensive aerobatic training. I’m an 8000 hr airline pilot and the meager 20 hrs of Aerobatics I did we’re some of the best hours I ever accrued. I wish I had more. Having an almost instinctual feel for what the plane is doing (and I’m not saying I’ve mastered this), applying pitch and power techniques, and just being able to “fly the plane”, “fly the plane”, “fly the m*f* ing plane” is what it all comes down to.

    Here’s an example from a co-worker of mine who was the monitoring pilot flying the river visual to runway 1 in DCA, circle to land 33. His first officer (who had thousands of hours) was one of my former instructors who I recognized even back then, was a nervous flyer who was uncomfortable yanking and banking. Procedurally she knew everything and could literally quote the book.

    They were descending up the river and he asked if she was going to “get over” to circle. She had forgotten and thought she was landing on runway 1. He said “we need to circle now”. She snapped back to reality and started the circle, but got low over the water. Her reaction then was to freak out, pitch the aircraft up 20 degrees without adding power and scream. The captain grabbed the controls and firewalled the power in time to land safely, albeit with a load in his shorts. She sat there crying.

    I can’t help but think if she had been put up in a plane upside-down, stalling, backwards, forwards, spinning, rolling, over and over again until she could recover every single time, this never would have happened. Many of these accidents like Buffalo would never have happened.

    Just my 2 cents… wait I’ll need that 2 cents. I’m a regional airline pilot.

    1. And that’s the point. That F/O who was overcome had thousands of hours.

      It’s not the total time that equates to necessary experience. There is so much more behind what makes a good pilot, one who anticipates to avoid bad situations, and one who reacts appropriately to correct bad situations.

      You can have great pilots who have 500 hours TT, and you can have crappy pilots who have 1500++ hours TT. And you can have excellent pilots who unfortunately have an unexpected mental break one day and do bad things (á là Jet Blue & FedEx).

  38. One thing that nobody raised was if I have 1500 hours why the hell should I work for a regional? I just go direct to majors!?

    1. No one mentioned it because no major will hire a 1500 hr pilot. Not all Regional Captains even get hired. You’re only options are US Regionals or in China, India or the Middle East.

  39. Middle and Far East airlines have some of the best industry track records with award wining airlines such as emirates, Cathy pacific, ethical, and Korean, Turkish to name only a few. they pay triple the salary with fantastic benefits flying the A380 777 and 747-8.

  40. Shameful that I cannot get to Billings – the largest city in Montana – non-stop from Oakland or San Francisco – or anywhere else. And when I travel through Salt Lake or Denver – I pay the most outrageous prices to get to Billings. Montana politicians – DO YOUR JOB! FIX THIS!

  41. Shameful that I can’t get to Billings – the largest City in Montana – without going through Denver or Salt Lake City. And the cost!!! Outrageous. Montana politicians- DO YOUR JOB! FIX THIS!!

  42. I am at university studying aviation sciences it is a 4 year course and at the end of it i will have an ATP. Currently i have a PPL and Multi- engine rating, an instrument rating and a multi engine commercial rating. I will be commencing my CFI next semester and once completed I will be able to work for the college in order to gain hours. I will also be interning for various airlines in my summers so once i graduate I should be able to get a job. I dont see an ATP been any disadvantage to anyone getting into commercial flying rather I see it as a goal, after all you will never get an major without one, and thats got to be the ultimate goal. Flying the regional’s is paying your dues like an apprenticeship and no apprentice gets a good salary they get training and experience which then allows them to make a good living.

  43. I said it earlier and I’ll say it again: Fifteen hundred hours for a newbie FO at a regional is too high. AND, the 250 mark (as a lot of foreign carrier do) is waaay too low. ATP (ATPL) cannot be had in the U.S. without some substantial hours, but how many can afford to ‘buy’ those hours? I do not know the right combination, but those junior FOs need some regular employment for build enough hours to achieve the ATP. Five hundred or 750 to start and then two years to obtain the ATP or out? I don’t know. It would help a lot of the regionals paid those first-year ‘kids’ a living wage, but they won’t! Perhaps that’s where The Congress should take some action, and back-off the 1500/ATP requirement a bit. The principal reason that I dislike flying a regional carrier is not the small plane or the discomfort, but because I know that in most cases, both pilots are angry and poor. Other than protecting their own hide, they don’t much care simply because they have been so badly abused. I don’t like having angry, abused pilots driving my ride!

  44. More than 30 years ago, I had 1600 hours before I was hired into the right seat of a turboprop in scheduled regional service. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there was very little hiring at the regulatory minimums. So, based on my own personal history (which was the norm back i the day), 1500 hours nowadays to get into the right seat of a Part 121 jet – and that 1500 hours can be all light piston time with negligible multi-engine time – is still minimal. I have an ATP, 3 jet type ratings, and thousands of hours. (I also have a graduate degree and frequently work outside of aviation.) I agree that Regional F.O. pay is way too low (and not just for new hires – all regional F.O. pay). However, I actually think that both the pay AND the requirements should be higher. Take a look at corporate aviation and fractional ownership companies’ hiring requirements and pay, for example.

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