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FAA issues new qualification rules for co-pilots, Flight 3407 families react

WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley

The Federal Aviation Administration announced Wednesday it is increasing pilot qualification requirements for co-pilots who fly U.S. passenger and cargo airlines. 
Flight 3407 families are applauding new requirements.  WBFO'S Eileen Buckley says the families gathered at Clarence Town Hall Wednesday to react to the changes they've been aggressively fighting for the past four years.

"No body every gets everything they want, especially in D.C., but we have come pretty close, and we are very grateful. More importantly we know the standards of hiring are going to be much hire for the flying public in the future," said Susan Bourque.

WBFO's Eileen Buckley spoke with Susan Bourque who lost her sister Beverly Eckert in the crash of Flight 3407 in 2009.

Bourque lost her sister Beverly Eckert in the crash of Flight 3407 in Clarence in 2009.  Bourque and her sister Karen Eckert have joined other family members in pushing for changes to air safety.

The FAA says these new regulations in part -- stem from the tragic crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407.  These new rules will require co-pilots to hold an Airline Transport Pilot certificate along with 1,500 hours as a pilot. Previously, the co-pilots were required  to have only a commercial pilot certificate requiring just 250 hours of flight time.

"But a pilot who has military training and experience will be credited with 750 hours toward that 1,500 hours, and someone who graduates from a four year, academic accredited program at a University or College with a pilot's license will be credited with 500 hours toward the 1,500 hours," said Eckert.                       

The FAA announcement comes just days after a South Korean airliner crashed in San Francisco.

The FAA will also pledges to examine course work at universities to make sure credit hours are appropriate toward flight safety.

Joining the families in Clarence was Karen Wielinski.  She lost her husband Doug when Flight 3407 slammed into their Clarence home.

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Some families gathered at the memorial on Long Road in Clarence where Flight 3407 crashed in 2009 into the Wielinski home.

"It's been an emotional weekend with the unfortunate crash in San Francisco.  I think we live with the crash everyday, but when things like this happen it just intensifies everything for us, so it's been very emotional and it's great news," said Wielinski.

The new rules went into effect immediately Wednesday.  Flight 3407 families say more new pilot training rules are due this October.  

Credit WBFO News photos by Eileen Buckley
Jennifer West and daughter Summer. West lost her husband Ernie in the crash in 2009.

"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,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We owe it to the traveling public to have only the most qualified and best trained pilots."

"The rule gives first officers a stronger foundation of aeronautical knowledge and experience before they fly for an air carrier,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “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.
  • Enhanced training requirements for an ATP certificate, including 50 hours of multi-engine flight experience and completion of a new FAA-approved training program.
  • An allowance for pilots with fewer than 1,500 hours of flight time or who have not reached the minimum age of 23 to obtain a “restricted privileges” ATP certificate. A restricted privileges ATP certificate allows a pilot to serve as a co-pilot until he or she obtains the necessary 1,500 hours. The options are:—Military pilots with 750 hours total time as a pilot;
    —Graduates holding a Bachelor’s degree with an aviation major with 1,000 hours total time as a pilot;
    —Graduates holding an Associate’s degree with an aviation major with 1,250 hours;
    —Pilots who are at least 21 years old with 1,500 flight hours.   

    The rule is consistent with the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010. The rule addresses recommendations from an Aviation Rulemaking Committee, the National Transportation Safety Board, and the FAA’s Call to Action to improve airline safety.