New Qualification Requirements for U.S. Pilots
In 2010, the U.S.
Congress passed a bill titled the “Airline Safety and Federal Administration
Extension Act of 2010” requiring first officers in FAR Part 121 operations to
hold an airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate. This bill, which was signed
into law as Public Law 111-216, may also have the effect of requiring all U.S.
airline pilots to hold a first-class medical and to be at least 23 years old. A
degree of uncertainty surrounds this issue for the entire industry, because the
FAA is expected to publish new regulations that expand upon and clarify the law
before it goes into effect.
The law gave the airlines three years to comply with this new provision, so
it will take effect on August 2, 2013. Accordingly, unless the FAA modifies the
regulations regarding the requirements of the ATP, pilots not holding an ATP by
that deadline may not be permitted to fly for a carrier in Part 121 operations.
However, per the law’s provisions, the FAA last year
published a notice of proposed rulemaking to modify and create a new “restricted
privileges” ATP. The proposed FARs included a requirement that all pilots
serving in Part 121 operations be type-rated in the aircraft flown. It would
also give flight-hour reductions to earn the restricted privileges ATP by pilots
who are at least 21 years old and have military flight experience or
professional flight training from an accredited university. ALPA supported these
provisions, but also called on the agency to “grandfather” those pilots who are
currently flying in FAR 121 operations so their employment will continue
uninterrupted beyond the August 2, 2013, deadline. We understand that the FAA
may also qualify pilots for the “restricted” ATP if they are at least 21 and
have at least 1,500 hours flight time without military qualifications and
without formal flight training through a college or university. The FAA has not
yet published a final rule on these issues, but it is anticipated to come out
very close to the August 2, 2013, legislative deadline.
The FAA has approved changes to airline training programs so pilots can be
issued an ATP and type-rating during recurrent training. Some airlines, but not
all, have been very proactive and are helping their commercial-certificate
holders obtain both of these authorizations in advance of the requirement.
Furthermore, the FAA has indicated that all Part 121 pilots will be
exercising ATP privileges on August 2, 2013, and may thus be required to hold a
valid first-class medical. Pilots not holding a valid first-class medical should
endeavor to obtain it before that deadline in order to be in compliance with the
current law in the event that FAA does not address the matter in regulation by
the August 2nd deadline. A first-class medical is valid for a period of 1 year
for pilots under the age of 40 and valid for 6 months for those age 40 or older.
ALPA continues to encourage the FAA to ensure that the employment status of
current airline pilots not be altered by the 2010 law, but it is incumbent upon
affected pilots to be fully aware of what may transpire on August 2, 2013, and
to prepare accordingly. ALPA will pass along additional information on this
important subject as it becomes available.