FORT WORTH, Texas--()--The Allied Pilots Association (APA), certified collective bargaining agent for the 10,000 pilots of American Airlines, voiced continued strong support for raising qualification requirements for first officers who fly for U.S. passenger and cargo airlines.
“Our pilots need to have the right training and right qualifications so that they can be prepared for any situation they encounter in the cockpit…I believe this proposed rule will ensure our nation’s pilots have the necessary skills and experience.”
APA President Keith Wilson said that a recent in-flight emergency aboard an Alaska Airlines flight clearly demonstrated the need for highly trained first officers.
“Just last month, when the captain of Alaska Airlines Flight 473 suffered a medical emergency, the co-pilot was left alone to safely land the airplane,” Wilson said. “Emergencies happen, and people can become incapacitated. That’s exactly why you need equally qualified pilots in the cockpit.”
The increased requirement would be consistent with a mandate in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010. It would require first officers, also known as co-pilots, to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, requiring 1,500 hours of total pilot flight time comprised of a variety of flight conditions, as well as an aircraft type rating, which involves additional training specific to the airplanes they fly. Currently, first officers are required to have only a commercial pilot certificate, which requires 250 hours of flight time.
The FAA proposed to substantially raise the qualification requirements for first officers nearly a year ago. In a press release dated Feb. 27, 2012, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said, “Our pilots need to have the right training and right qualifications so that they can be prepared for any situation they encounter in the cockpit…I believe this proposed rule will ensure our nation’s pilots have the necessary skills and experience.”
“We totally agree with Mr. Huerta’s statement, especially in light of the Alaska Airlines incident,” Wilson said. “Since last February, we have not heard about any progress on this new rule, and yet the need for increased safety and increased qualifications for first officers has not diminished. The current minimum requirement of 250 hours of in-flight experience is simply inadequate.”
“Airlines need to be focused on the safety ramifications associated with inexperience,” Wilson added. “The FAA needs to refocus on its stated commitment to the safety of the traveling public and raise the pilot qualifications now.”
Founded in 1963, the Allied Pilots Association—the largest independent pilot union in the U.S.—is headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas. APA represents the 10,000 pilots of American Airlines, including 385 pilots on furlough. The furloughs began shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Also, several hundred American Airlines pilots are on full-time military leave of absence serving in the armed forces. The union’s Web site address is www.alliedpilots.org. American Airlines is the nation’s third-largest passenger carrier and fifth-largest cargo carrier.