FAA to finalise pilot qualifications rule on 15 July

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Story updated to include rule publication date in headline and paragraph two

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will finalise previously proposed legislation that will dramatically increase the number of flight hours required by first officers working for US passenger and cargo carriers.

The agency says today it will publish the final rule for the requirement on 15 July, more than a year after a public comment period on the proposed rule closed on 30 April 2012.

The rule will require first officers to have 1,500h of flight time in order to qualify for an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate. Previously, first officers required only 250h of flight time for a commercial pilot certificate.

First officers will also be required to hold an aircraft type rating under the new rule, which would involve more training specific to the aircraft types they fly.

The FAA earlier proposed the rule in response to a US Congress mandate requiring the FAA to increase the number of flight hours required by first officers in 2010 as part of the wider FAA budget extension bill. The call to increase the number of hours stemmed from concerns over pilot qualifications in the wake of a fatal crash involving a Colgan Air Bombardier Q400 in February 2009.

Under the 2010 law, the FAA must finalise the first officer training requirements by August 2013.

Aside from the new requirements upon first officers, pilots in command will also be required to accumulate at least 1,000h as a co-pilot in air carrier operations before serving as captain in any US airline under the new rule. Previously, they were only required to hold an ATP certificate and at least 1,500h as pilot.