FAA Finalizes ATP Rule for First Officers

New requirements take effect August 1.

The FAA yesterday issued a long-anticipated final rule requiring airline first officers to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate with a minimum of 1,500 hours of flight time in the majority of cases. The new requirements, which take effect on August 1, will shut the door on career opportunities for some low-time pilots and make it harder for airlines to find qualified applicants.

There are a few caveats in the rule’s fine print, however, that make it possible to qualify for a restricted ATP license with fewer than 1,500 hours. The rules stipulate that pilots can serve as second-in-command crew members for Part 121 carriers with “restricted privileges” if they meet specific criteria outlined in the new regulations. To qualify for the exemption, a first officer must meet the following qualifications: be an ex-military pilot with at least 750 hours total time; be a graduate holding an aviation bachelor’s degree and a minimum of 1,000 hours total time; or hold an aviation associate’s degree and have at least 1,250 hours.

The regulation specifies that pilots flying with restricted ATP licenses (now referred to as an R-ATP) serve as second in command officers only “in domestic, flag, and supplemental operations not requiring more than two pilot flight crew members.” ATP pilots must be at least 23 years old, but the rule also allows pilots who are at least 21 years old with the requisite 1,500 flight hours to serve as airline copilots under the restricted privileges section of the rule.

The new rules, which were prompted by the deadly crash of a Colgan Air Dash 8 in Buffalo, New York, in 2009, also require a pilot to have logged a minimum of 1,000 flight hours as first officer in air carrier operations prior to serving as captain. Applicants will have to meet enhanced training requirements to qualify for an ATP certificate, including 50 hours of multi-engine time, and 200 hours of cross country for those seeking qualification under restricted privileges rules and, also under the restricted section of the rules, completion of an FAA-approved training program with a Part 141 flight school.

Under current rules, airline first officers are required to hold only a commercial pilot certificate and have a minimum of 250 hours of flight time.

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