FAA seeks comments on pilot training


Colgan Air crash prompts review

February 4, 2010

The fatal crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 last February outside Buffalo, N.Y., sent shock waves through the airline industry and beyond: The government’s response to issues brought to light by the crash could change the way general aviation pilots train.

The crash has prompted inquiries into what could have caused the captain to pull aft on the stick shaker instead of pushing forward when it warned of an impending stall, and the FAA has zeroed in on what could be contributing factors in its call-to-action report: fatigue, professionalism, mentoring, and training. To address the latter, the FAA is requesting recommendations to improve pilot qualification and training requirements.

The agency is publishing an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM)—a posting that asks for comments but does not yet propose a regulatory solution—requesting public comment on possible changes to regulations related to commercial pilot certification.

“Even an issue with the airlines can have far-reaching implications for general aviation pilots and flight schools,” said AOPA Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Rob Hackman. “The Colgan Air crash has led to proposals for changing pilot training, and the FAA is asking for input.”

The accident focused attention on whether a commercially-rated copilot in Part 121 operations receives adequate training, the advanced NPRM states. The FAA is looking for public comment on four basic topics.

  • Should all pilots who transport passengers be required to hold an air transport pilot (ATP) certificate with the appropriate aircraft category, class, and type ratings? This would increase the required flight hours for these pilots to 1,500 hours.
  • Should the FAA permit academic credit in lieu of required flight hours or experience?
  • Should the FAA establish a new commercial pilot certificate endorsement that would address concerns about the operational experience of newly hired commercial pilots, require additional flight hours, and possibly credit academic training?
  • Would an air-carrier-specific authorization on an existing pilot certificate improve safety?

Pilots can submit comments online; by mail at Docket Operations, M-30, U.S. Department of Transportation, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, West Building Ground Floor, Room W12-140, Washington, DC 20590; by fax at 202/493-2251; or by hand-delivery. Comments should be identified by Docket Number FAA-2010-0100. The comment period is open for 60 days.