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FAA increases number of flying hours for co-pilots

First officers who fly for U.S. cargo and passenger airlines must now have six times more flight hours than before.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is increasing the qualification requirements with a rule that requires first officers, also known as co-pilots, to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, requiring 1,500 hours total time as a pilot.

Before, first officers were required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which entails 250 hours of flight time.

The rule also requires first officers to have an aircraft type rating, which involves additional training and testing specific to the airplanes they fly.

"Safety will be my overriding priority as secretary, so I am especially pleased to mark my first week by announcing a rule that will help us maintain our unparalleled safety record," transportation secretary Anthony Foxx said. "We owe it to the traveling public to have only the most qualified and best trained pilots."

The new regulations stem in part from the crash of Colgan Air 3407 in 2009 and address a congressional mandate to ensure that both pilots and co-pilots receive the ATP certification.

"The rule gives first officers a stronger foundation of aeronautical knowledge and experience before they fly for an air carrier," FAA administrator Michael Huerta said. "With this rule and our efforts to address pilot fatigue – both initiatives championed by the families of Colgan flight 3407 – we're making a safe system even safer."

Other highlights of the rule include a requirement for a pilot to have a minimum of 1,000 flight hours as a co-pilot in air carrier operations prior to serving as a captain for a U.S. airline and improved training requirements for an ATP certificate.

The rule can be viewed at: http://www.faa.gov/regulations_policies/rulemaking/recently_published/me....