FAA Administrator Opposes Minimum Hours for Airline Pilots

A bill inspired by the crash of Continental Flight 3407 last year would impose a minimum for an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) rating to fly commercial airliners under FAR Part 121. The ATP requires at least 1,500 hours of experience. FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt told lawmakers he'd prefer to mandate situation-specific training, rather than the ATP requirement. The legislation, passed by the House in October, is driven largely by family members of those killed in the crash, which is attributed in part to the inexperience of the crew flying the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 turboprop. The pilots reacted incorrectly to an aerodynamic stall induced by icing. A citizens' group, Families of Continental Flight 3407, has communicated with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) who is sponsoring a Senate bill that would mandate the 1,500-hour minimum. Babbitt argues that flight hours alone do not guarantee proficiency under new and challenging conditions. He'd prefer to see a requirement for training specific to the pilots' mission. Both pilots of Flight 3407 were new to the Northeast and their cockpit conversation included discussion of their inexperience with flying in ice.