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Higgins urges protection of 1,500-hour pilot training rule


Wed, Jun 14th 2023 07:20 pm

2023 FAA reauthorization bill allows pilots to complete a portion of training hours in simulators

Congressman Brian Higgins is objecting to changes to the 1,500-hour pilot training rule included in the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act (H.R.3935). The bill will reauthorize the authority and funding for the Federal Aviation Administration for the next five years.

Speaking on the House floor in opposition to these changes, Higgins said, “In 2009, Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence, New York, killing everyone on board and one person on the ground. The 2010 FAA reauthorization bill took bold, bipartisan action to address the flight safety issues that cause this tragic crash. This included the 1,500-hour pilot training rule, which significantly increased the number of required flight training hours from just 250 to 1,500 hours. Since then, commercial aviation fatalities have decreased by 99.8%. The new FAA reauthorization legislation introduced last week includes a provision allowing an additional 150 hours of the 1,500-hour rule standard to be completed in a simulator.

“We oppose this change. It veers off course from the reforms we fought so hard for. We cannot falter on safety standards that this body of Congress has fought alongside the Flight 3407 families to achieve.”

In the aftermath of the Flight 3407 tragedy, an investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found the crash was avoidable and caused by pilot error. In the years following, Higgins fought alongside Flight 3407 families to establish bipartisan flight safety reforms to prevent communities from experiencing a similar tragedy.

A press release stated, “The 1,500-hour pilot training rule was passed as part of the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Act of 2010. Prior to this legislation, first officers (co-pilots) were only required to complete a minimum of 250 hours of in-flight training. The 1,500-hour rule significantly increased this standard and, as a result, there has not been a fatal crash on a U.S. carrier in 14 years.

“Although the Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act retains the 1,500-hour rule, it would allow first officers to complete an additional 150 hours of the total required amount in a flight simulator, subsequently decreasing the amount of real flight experience needed to obtain a commercial pilot’s license.

“Flight 3407 families have also expressed concern over changes to first officer qualifications that would impact this hard-fought pilot training regulation.”

Higgins’ team said he has “repeatedly advocated alongside bipartisan colleagues to keep the 1,500-hour rule in place as written in the 2010 FAA reauthorization bill and prevent regional airlines from sidestepping the regulation.”

In April Higgins and Congressman Nick Langworthy testified before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advocating to fully protect the flight safety measure in the 2023 FAA reauthorization bill. The members also wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg objecting to an appeal by SkyWest Airlines to reclassify operations as a means to undermine the 1,500-hour rule.

The press release added, “In June of 2022, Higgins wrote a joint letter with former Congressman Chris Jacobs to the Federal Aviation Administration regarding a request by Republic Airways to circumvent the training rule, which was ultimately rejected by the agency.”

The Securing Growth and Robust Leadership in American Aviation Act was introduced in the House of Representatives on June 9. Consideration began on Tuesday, as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held mark-up hearings to advance the bill, which Flight 3407 families were in attendance for.

The committee advanced the bill on Wednesday, and the chair suggested the full House could vote on the FAA reauthorization bill as soon as the third week in July.

The FAA’s funding and authorities are set to expire on Sept. 30.

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