Requirements set out in a new law passed in July have been questioned by an FAA advisory committee. According to a recent report, certain training courses may count for a large portion of the 1500 hours of flight time required by the law. The report also outlines concerns regarding the law that amount to a veritable laundry list of flight safety and economic concerns.
According to the FAA Administrator, Randy Babbitt, effective academic training can be more valuable than just spending 1500 hours in a plane. Even still, there seems to be an even split on the issue. For example, according to lawmakers, airline first officers with more experience are better and safer pilots.
Another concern outlined in the report relates to economics. According to the committee, requiring first officers to have as much experience as captains will cause an increase in competition for salaries and benefits. The concern being that the law may artificially create a shortage of pilots. Additionally, there are flight training concerns put forth by college and university flight schools who worry that students will elect to train a smaller, less-expensive schools in order to minimize costs thereby putting them out of business.
The underlying issue for the entire argument is whether quantity of flight time outweighs the quality of training. According to people like Administrator Babbitt, quality training can overshadow quantity, while lawmakers maintain that quantity is most important. What is best? Who is right? It bears mentioning that the law was born out of the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 and there was an ATP rated captain with more than 1500 hours acting as pilot in command of that aircraft.
An obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the proper balance of quantity and quality is the key to safe flying. Whether that balance is 500 hours of flight training and academic instruction or 1500 hours of straight-and-level flight seems to be in the eye of the beholder. This issue will likely continue to be a hot-button topic for quite some time. Either way, future pilots are going to need training, the question is in how much.
For more information on flight training and choosing the right school, check out our Flight Training Resource Center.