Small- and medium-sized communities are continuing to experience commercial air service reductions, in part, because carriers say that there are not enough qualified pilots to operate their flights. Numerous studies and news reports have documented the adverse impacts of the pilot shortage. Unfortunately, more and more communities in rural and less populated areas will continue to lose commercial flights unless Congress, the administration, and aviation stakeholders take action.
While there are a number of factors that have contributed to the lack of available qualified pilots in the U.S., a 2013 Federal Aviation Administration rule that requires first officers to accumulate 1,500 hours of flight time to obtain an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate has created significant challenges. The 1,500 hours of required flight time is up from the 250 hours previously required. As part of the 2013 rule, the agency allowed pilots to receive a restricted ATP with fewer hours including military pilots with 750 hours, graduates holding a bachelor’s degree in aviation with 1,000 hours, and graduates holding an associate’s degree in aviation with 1,200 hours.
The FAA pointed out that the regulations “stem in part from the tragic crash of Colgan Air 3407 in February 2009, and address a Congressional mandate in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010 to ensure that both pilots and co-pilots receive the ATP certification.”