Did you know that the co-pilot on your commercial flight could be hired with only 250 hours total flight time. For some pilots that is three months of flight time. Do you want a pilot who has three months experience piloting your aircraft in to JFK in a snow storm? Many of the regional/ feeder airlines have implemented programs that involve the new hire pilots who are very inexperienced to pay from fifteen to twenty thousand dollars for their training. This concept is very effective for the bottom line of the airline but it is counterproductive to airline safety. This concept along with the pilot fatigue in the cockpit dilemma, are two areas where the FAA should be held in contempt. A copilot has to be able to safely continue a flight and get the aircraft on the ground in event of an incapacitated captain. Many of these very low-time, inexperienced pilots would be incapable of doing so in many of the challenging flight regimes that the regional carrier might encounter. The uninformed passenger books his flight with the belief that he will have experienced well-trained pilots in the big jet. He then gets into the cramped quarters of the “feeder airlines” small turboprop aircraft and the copilot could have less than 500 hours total flight time.

An interesting statistic regarding domestic flights is as follows: Five of the last six commercial airline accidents in the United States were operated by one of these FAA certified regional air carriers. The last accident, the highly publicized Buffalo, NY crash of Continental Flight #3407, operated by Colgan Air, was piloted by a very tired and inexperienced flight crew. The copilot informed the captain as they entered icing conditions that she had never before flown in icing conditions. PBS Frontline produced a revealing expose’ of this accident and the dysfunctionality of the regional air carriers. It is hosted by the veteran aviation journalist, Miles O’Brien and is titled “Flying Cheap.” It can be accessed by going to PBS.ORG. Also, a book titled Squawk 7700 will throw additional light on the “commuter airlines.”

But rejoice for the FAA has stepped forward and will be implementing new minimum flight time standards for new pilots. The new minimum hire time for any FAR 121 airline will be 1,500 hours total time, with a few reasonable caveats. Ex-military pilots are only required 750 hours. In most cases this is a very reasonable compromise. The other exception is for graduates of University or College flight schools. These pilots will only require 1,000 hours total time. Perhaps most importantly, all pilots will have to receive “type-rating” training specific to the aircraft that they are flying. This requires a much more advanced aircraft knowledge and aviator skills specific to that aircraft. Hopefully, this certification will be done with FAA inspectors rather than company check airman who might be pressured to “sign off” the new hire before he/or she might be up to speed. These new regulations will move the safety quotient of commuter airlines up a few notches but I still want to be on the big jet with the 10,000 plus hour pilots.

This blog is prepared by Ace Abbott, author of The Rogue Aviator



  1. Qoute “Perhaps most importantly, all pilots will have to receive “type-rating” training specific to the aircraft that they are flying.” This is already the case. Lets not sugar coat a B.S. Rule that is going to hurt the aviation industry.

    • It is true that the captain must receive type-rating training and approval by the FAA but the first Officer does not receive the same stringent training.

  2. If they FAA is multiplying minimum hours by 6, they should also mandate regional salaries to increase 6 fold. Ugh, rage. This law will most likely have to be repealed or at least be phased in once regionals have to start parking aircraft due to a lack of pilots that are “qualified” (meet some ridiculously set number and license requirements). MPLs need to be offered in the US with the low time requirements that exist in other countries. Asia in particular has seen great success with MPLs with low time pilots that often have time logged on exclusively level d 777. It seems idiotic in today’s world that a young student pilot needs to work his or her way up from private to ATP before sitting in the right seat of a regional when have the knowledge and simulated experience of FMS, engine out after V1 procedures.

  3. Minimum 1500h. What a great idea…
    How is a student pilot supposed to get his first job if he’s only 250h after completing his commercial licence? Rob a bank to buy extra hours?
    By the way, the Colgan Air crew had 3000+ (captain) and 2000+ (co-pilot) flight hours.

  4. will reduce the number of future new airline pilots for sure.

    • The future of aviation loks dimmer as we go. Very few people can afford the expensive training to go to a $20,000 a year job as a commuter pilot based in NY or Chicago , for instance. Allen Morris/aka Ace abbott

    • Hello Douglas,

    • Hello Douglas, Thanks for the feedback. I wish you well in you aviation endeavors. Ace Abbot

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