The new first officer qualifications are a hot topic. On July 10, the FAA released its Final Rule, which should appear in the Federal Register next week. Everyone has something to say about this. But opinions aside, all I can I find on the web is the text of the new rule and several paraphrased copies of the FAA press release.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s inside the 221 pages of the Pilot Certification and Qualification Requirements for Air Carrier Operations.
To get the most important information up front here, I compiled a detailed summary of changes as they would apply to a graduate of a qualifying 4-year degree program.
I also outlined the structure of the Final Rule and noted the page numbers of some important sections. The small page numbers correspond to the unofficial FAA version, followed in parentheses by the official page number in the Federal Register. For example: Page 1 (42324). This will help you to reference either version of the Final Rule.
To see how the Final Rule compares to the previous NPRM version of FAR 61.160, please see my 2012 article, First Officer Epoch.
|Description||New Minimum||New Regulation||Old Minimum||Old Regulation|
|Age||21 years||§ 61.153(a)(2)||18 years||§ 61.123(a)|
|Total Time as a Pilot||1,000 hours||§ 61.160(b)|
|Flight Time as a Pilot||250 hours||§ 61.129(a)|
|Education||Bachelor’s degree||§ 61.160(b)(1)|
|Concentration||Aviation major||§ 61.160(b)(1)|
|Certification||R-ATP eligibility||§ 61.160(b)(1)|
|Recognized Coursework||60 credit hours||§ 61.160(b)(2)|
|Instrument Ground||§ 141 curriculum||§ 61.160(b)(3)(i)|
|Commercial Ground||§ 141 curriculum||§ 61.160(b)(3)(i)|
|Instrument Flight||§ 141 curriculum||§ 61.160(b)(3)(ii)|
|Commercial Flight||§ 141 curriculum||§ 61.160(b)(3)(ii)|
|Cross-Country Time||200 hours||§ 61.160(e)|
|Night Time||100 hours||§ 61.159(a)(2)||7 hours||§ 61.129(a)(3,4)|
|AMEL Time||50 hours||§ 61.159(a)(3)|
|Instrument Time||75 hours||§ 61.159(a)(4)||10 hours||§ 61.129(a)(3)(i)|
|PIC Time||250 hours||§ 61.159(a)(5)||100 hours||§ 61.129(a)(2)|
|PIC Cross-Country Time||100 hours||§ 61.159(a)(5)(i)||50 hours||§ 61.129(a)(2)(ii)|
|PIC Night Time||25 hours||§ 61.159(a)(5)(ii)||5 hours||§ 61.129(a)(4)(ii)|
|ATP CTP Requirement||Effective Aug 2014||§ 61.35(a)(2)|
|Knowledge Test Validity||5 years||§ 61.39(a)(1)(ii)||2 years||§ 61.39(a)(1)|
|Pilot Certificate||ATP + Type Rating||§ 121.436(b)||Commercial||§ 121.437(b)|
|Medical Certificate||2nd Class||§ 61.23(a)(2)(i)||2nd Class||§ 61.23(a)(2)|
Front Matter: Pages 1 – 11 (42324 – 42327) contain a summary (equivalent to the press release), a statement that the Final Rule will be effective immediately and that compliance is required by August 1, 2013 (see also p. 144 (42361)), contact information, statement of authority, list of abbreviations, the table of contents, and overview (a slightly longer summary). A price tag of $4.4 billion is mentioned as the total cost of requiring ATP certificates.
Background Information: Pages 12 – 26 (42327 – 42331) describe the 2009 crash near Buffalo, New York, its political ramifications, and the development of the new regulations.
Public Comments: Pages 27 – 145 (42331 – 42361) discuss point-by-point each regulatory change, the comments pertinent to that change received during the NPRM period, and the FAA response to the comments. This is the only section that directly addresses the merits of the Final Rule.
It is interesting to note the admission on page 29 (42332) that the FAA had not considered the full impact of medical certification requirements for first officers when the NPRM period began.
On page 88 (42347), comments about the AABI are addressed but ruled against. “The FAA acknowledges the value of programmatic accreditation, but it is not the sole means of assuring the quality of an aviation degree program.” Institutional accreditation, as recognized by the Department of Education, does remain as one of the qualifications in the Final Rule.
Page 90 (42348) explains new qualifications based on “coursework designed to improve and enhance the knowledge and skills of a person seeking a career as a professional pilot.” It includes examples of which courses will count as credit toward an ATP certificate.
Pages 94 – 96 (42349) describe an application process by which higher education institutions will be allowed to certify their students as meeting the new coursework qualifications. Of particular interest here is the statement that, “once the FAA has determined that an institution of higher education has met all the requirements … a graduate will then be required to present the certifying document.” The implication is clear after reading the new text of § 61.160(b)(1) on page 200 (42375), which requires by reference to other paragraphs that the degree-issuing institution must be accredited as recognized by the Department of Education and must be authorized by the FAA to certify graduates as R-ATP eligible at 1,000 hours. Without both accreditation and the new FAA authorization, the R-ATP applicant cannot satisfy the qualifications. It will be important for the not-yet-authorized college aviation departments and their not-yet-certified graduates to stay informed about this.
Page 102 (42351) states that transfer students who graduate from qualifying aviation degree programs are eligible for an ATP certificate and must meet the same requirements as non transfer students. It also references AC 61-139.
Cost-Benefit Analysis: Pages 146 – 155 (42362 – 42364) discuss the economic impact of the Final Rule.
Other Notices: Pages 156 – 181 (42364 – 42371) discuss the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980, the Trade Agreements Act of 1979, the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995, the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995, ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices, and FAA Order 1050.1E.
Executive Orders and Additional Information: Pages 181 and 182 contain sections that do not correspond to any part of the table of contents in the unofficial version. The Federal Register contains a corrected table of contents for the official publication.
The Amendment: Pages 183 – 221 (42372 – 42380) are the body of the new regulation.
Factual Errors: On pages 23 and 93 (42330, 42348, and 42349), the Final Rule states that last year’s NPRM required 375 hours cross country time. That is not correct. The § 61.160(b)(1) proposed on page 12402 of Vol. 77, No. 40, would have required 325 hours, not 375.
The requirement for § 141 curriculum in ground and flight training will come as a huge surprise to those familiar with the NPRM version of this rule. That version specified under § 61.160(b) training “obtained from an affiliated part 141 pilot school” and never requested comments for a curriculum requirement. As a result, many students who trained at a part 141 pilot school under a part 61 curriculum will now be unexpectedly excluded from R-ATP eligibility.
Yesterday, a classmate at the airport pointed out to me that I am currently the only part 141 curriculum graduate of Eastern Michigan University. I think this underscores the scope of disappointment that many bachelor’s degree holders will feel when they read this Final Rule.
Also, it has yet to be seen whether Eastern Michigan University can receive certifying authorization for R-ATP under the strictest interpretation of the Final Rule. There are some nuances of the language dealing with part 141 ground school certification that I thought were needlessly confusing. I really don’t know if EMU is considered a part 141 ground school, or how long it would take to complete the authorization process. There are probably less than a few people who could even answer those questions at this point.
Another point of confusion for me was the calculation of “recognized” credit hours. Do the credit hours for ground and flight instruction count toward the 60 credit minimum? If a student obtains a private pilot certificate before college and receives some type of credit on their transcript just for holding the certificate, then is that credit counted? Are internship credit hours counted?
Advisory Circular 61-139 is referenced three times in the Final Rule. Does it exist and where is it?
If you have any other questions or would like to contribute your opinions, please leave a comment below.
Next article: R-ATP Regulation to Reality