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Monday, 30 April, 2012

NATA comments on FAA proposed 1500 Hour pilot training rule

April 30, 2012

Docket Operations, M–30
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue SE, Room W12–140
West Building Ground Floor
Washington, DC 20590–0001

Submitted electronically via

RE: Docket # FAA-2010-0100, Pilot Certification and Qualification Requirements for Air Carrier Operations

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA), the voice of aviation business, is the public policy group representing the interests of aviation businesses before the Congress, federal agencies and state governments. NATA's 2,000 member companies own, operate and service aircraft. These companies provide for the needs of the traveling public by offering services and products to aircraft operators and others such as fuel sales, aircraft maintenance, parts sales, storage, rental, airline servicing, flight training, Part 135 on-demand air charter, fractional aircraft program management and scheduled commuter operations in smaller aircraft. NATA members are a vital link in the aviation industry providing services to the general public, airlines, general aviation and the military. 

NATA has been very concerned with the possible negative safety and training effects arising from the passage of the Airline Safety and FAA Extension Act of 2010. Of particular concern is the mandatory establishment of a 1500-hour total flight time requirement for a pilot to operate in an airline environment. Our concern less involves the actual number of total hours required and is more focused on the lack of regulatory flexibility to adapt to new science in understanding how best to train a professional pilot. Under the scheme established by the act, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) retains little authority to adopt new training standards that, while possibly encompassing less than 1500 hours total time, might be proven to provide more comprehensive training, experience and benefit to safety.

However, under the framework established by the act the Pilot Certification and Qualification Requirements for Air Carrier Operations Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) becomes vitally important. The regulations established by this NPRM will guide the next generation of airline pilots and have an effect on the entire aviation industry, from small Part 61 flight schools to the largest airline.

Rule Summary

With this NPRM, the FAA proposes the following:

  • A requirement that all pilots operating under Part 121 must hold an ATP certificate
  • Pilots will be required to have obtained 50 hours of flight time in the class of airplane for the ATP certificate for which they are applying
  • A requirement for all pilots operating under Part 121 to hold a type rating, if available, for the aircraft they are operating
  • The creation of an ATP Certification Training Program that would be required for all applicants seeking an ATP with a multi-engine rating or type rating
    • This training course would require:
      • 25 hours of classroom training
      • 16 hours of mandated turbine flight simulator training
  • The creation of a restricted privileges ATP Certificate allowing certain pilots (ex-military and those graduating from an aviation degree program/flight training program) to act as SIC under Part 121 with less than 1500 hours total time
  • A requirement of 1000 hours of Air Carrier operations to serve as PIC under Part 121

Specific Comments

ATP Certification Training Program

Recommendation – Due to the costs and reductions in safety inherent in the ATP CTP, NATA recommends that the FAA withdraw the proposed Part 61, Section 154. Rather, modifications to the existing ATP aeronautical experience, knowledge and training requirements should be made. These changes can effectively address the conceptual training that the FAA has envisioned with the ATP CTP. Due to the cost and possibility of negative learning experiences, any mandated simulator training should be integrated into an air carrier training program rather than as a stand-alone certification requirement.

The proposed modifications to the ATP Certificate, in an attempt to meet the requirements set forth in Section 217 of the Airline Safety Act of 2010, have resulted in shifting airline-centric training away from the airlines themselves onto the individual pilot. As outlined in the preamble, air carriers can ask for a reduction in their initial training hours based upon a pilot’s completion of the ATP CTP. This shift of training burden greatly increases the cost of training to the individual pilot, increases the opportunity for negative learning experiences and creates a disincentive for pilots to pursue additional certification.

In this rulemaking and the associated analysis, the FAA has presented the ATP CTP as a program that will likely be performed by air carriers in advance of or during applicable initial or upgrade training1. NATA believes that analyzing this proposal in this manner is not appropriate. The ATP CTP is a regulatory requirement that is imposed upon individuals, not air carriers or other certificated entities. As stated in the rule preamble, the ATP CTP “would be a basic certification requirement, not an air carrier training program requirement.”2. Since no requirement exists or is proposed that requires air carriers to provide the ATP CTP, we believe the FAA must perform its analysis of this proposal assuming the impact is on individual pilots pursuing ATP certification.

The Initial Regulatory Analysis for this rule estimates the ATP CTP will be a seven-day course with an estimated cost of $57713. The FAA’s use of a framework that has the cost of the program being be borne by Part 121 air carriers leads to numerous assumptions on cost factors that result in an overall lower cost estimate than if the cost of the program were borne by individuals. These lower cost factors are a direct result of the efficiencies in training available to an air carrier such as utilizing its own training personal as opposed to contracting with a third party, combining multiple training events and negating additional travel costs by combining training events4. Individual pilots seeking ATP certification do not have access to these efficiencies and would be required to contract with a third party to complete the ATP CTP. Since the regulatory requirement to complete the ATP CTP affects individuals, not air carriers, the cost of the program must be calculated based up factors derived from an individual pilots’ cost in completing the required training.

Aside from cost, the shifting of training from an air carrier training program to individual pilots also poses the risk of negative learning situations arising from overgeneralization and in-applicable topics. Training providers seeking to offer an ATP CTP will be forced to create a program that is as broad as possible to give the provider as large a customer base as possible. Topics that were once covered in specific air carrier initial training will now be taught in a fashion that makes them applicable to as large a population as possible, likely leading to the loss of functional applicability to a specific air carriers operating environment. NATA’s position on this issue is not that these topics should not be taught to prospective air carrier pilots but rather they should be taught as part of an air carrier training program thus allowing the pilot to gain as much specific knowledge and experience as possible that will be applicable to the environment and conditions in which they will be operating.

In addition to over-generalization of training topics, the ATP CTP also creates negative learning situations by forcing pilots into non-applicable training. As proposed, the new section 154 requires simulator training to be performed in a device that “represents a multi-engine turbine aircraft”5. However, the requirement to complete the ATP CTP applies to any pilot who seeks an ATP with airplane category, multi-engine class rating or type rating. There are many pilots who will be required by regulation to hold an ATP, and thus complete the training in a turbine simulator, who will be operating a turboprop or piston engine aircraft. This pushing of a pilot into a training event that is inapplicable to their experience and operational goals will lead to a negative experience that does not increase safety. Also as outlined below, many pilots of turboprop and piston-engine aircraft who are not required to hold an ATP still seek the ATP rating and forcing those pilots to train in a turbine simulator will create a negative experience that could affect safety.

Finally, the FAA appears to fail to understand the broad use the ATP certificate has achieved throughout the industry. Despite its name, the ATP certificate has been used for many years by segments of the industry where an ATP rating is not mandated by regulation. As an additional level of certification above commercial pilot, the ATP certificate is commonly used by many Part 91 operators and non-turbojet Part 135 operators as an advanced threshold for pilot hiring. Many insurance companies utilize the ATP certificate as a threshold for pilot qualification in covered Part 91 operations. This expanded use of the ATP beyond its regulatory mandate provides an overall benefit to safety. However, as written the ATP CTP will act as a disincentive for pilots to complete this additional level of certification due to cost and the risk of negative learning events. NATA believes that the FAA should tread cautiously when a new proposal, such as the ATP CTP, threatens existing, voluntary measures that benefit safety, especially when other methods of achieving the same goal exist.

NATA’s recommendation that the proposal for the creation of an ATP CTP should not be construed in a manner that suggests the association does not see value in additional conceptual training for prospective ATP candidates. NATA’s position is based upon the specifics of the proposed manner of providing that training. We believe that the additional training mandated by section 217 of the Airline Safety Act and of nearly equivalent value to that obtained through the proposed ATP CTP can be accomplished at a lower cost through the modifications of the knowledge and training regulations governing the ATP certification. Insertion of required training topics, much like is done with other certification levels, will create an environment where pilots are able to utilize less burdensome training methods, such as on-line course delivery.

ATP Certificate with Restricted Privileges Based Upon Academic Credit or Military Experience

Recommendation – NATA recommends that the FAA expand the flight hour credit proposal to include a comprehensive framework similar to the recommendations of the FOQ ARC and any other science-based advanced training courses that provide a benefit to safety. In the event that the FAA chooses not to expand this proposal, NATA recommend that the FAA withdraw this proposal in its entirety until such time as the agency can create a more comprehensive framework.
Section 217 of the Airline Safety Act of 2012 permits the FAA to establish flight hour credits for the completion of “academic” courses. The flight hour credits would reduce the number of total hours needed to be eligible to obtain an ATP certificate. The act further requires that in establishing these credits the administrator must determine that completion of an academic course in combination with a reduced number of total flight hours will provide more safety benefit than would meeting the full flight hour requirement without completing the course.

In this rulemaking, the FAA proposes creating a “Restricted Privileges” ATP Certificate that can be obtained with reduced total flight time hours. Applicants who complete a four-year baccalaureate aviation degree program and commercial pilot certification with an affiliated Part 141 flight school are eligible for the restricted privileges ATP with only 1000 total flight hours. Former military pilots can receive the restricted ATP with only 750 hours.

While NATA agrees with the idea of incentivizing additional training and education that has a safety benefit, we are perplexed by the FAA’s approach to this proposal. The FAA chartered First Officers Qualifications Aviation Rulemaking Committee (FOQ ARC) developed a proposal for offering flight hour credit for specific training events such as completion of a four-year degree, two-year degree, Certified Flight Instructor Rating and Advanced Jet Transition training.

The FAA indicated that it rejected the First Officer Qualifications Aviation Rulemaking Committee’s (FOQ ARC) recommendation for a framework of flight hour credits because the “Act [does not permit] giving added flight hour credit to certain types of flight experience to reduce the minimum required flight hours for the ATP certificate”6. However, the proposals for flight hour credits contained in this rulemaking all require a mix of “academic” training and flight experience just like the proposed FOQ ARC framework. The primary difference between the FAA proposal and the FOQ ARC proposal is that the FAA proposal is far more limited in training options for receiving flight hour credits.

NATA believes that for this rulemaking to provide safety benefits it must incentivize additional advanced training that provides a safety benefit. As written, the proposal does little more than create a bottle neck in the training process by only incentivizing one option for flight hour credits. The FAA’s statement that it is prohibited from implementing the other credit options envisioned by the FOQ ARC is unpersuasive as there is no discernable difference between the training and flight experienced combinations proposed by the FOQ ARC and the training and flight experience requirements contained in the FAA’s four-year degree and military training proposal.

ATP Minimum Age

Recommendation – NATA recommends that the FAA remove the age penalty for ATP applicants who do not qualify for a restricted privilege ATP certificate by allowing pilots who have met the requirements of 14 CFR 61.159 to qualify for a restricted privileges ATP.

The proposed rules create a two-year age penalty that allows former military pilots or those who have completed an applicable four-year aviation degree program to act as second-in-command in a Part 121 operation at age 21 while requiring others to be at least 23 years of age prior to ATP certification.

The FAA provides no details on why it has established this age differential; however, it is assumed that the FAA has made a determination that 21-year-old applicants pose sufficient maturity to exercise the limited privileges of a restricted privileges ATP. NATA believes that other explanations for this age penalty would not be justified; completion of a four-year degree program or certification as a military pilot would not necessarily speed up the natural maturation process.

Under the assumption that a 21-year-old pilot posses sufficient maturity to exercise the limited privileges of a restricted privileges ATP certificate, NATA recommends that the FAA establish a pathway whereby non-military pilots who have not completed a four-year degree program can be eligible to receive a restricted privileges ATP certificate at age 21 and 1500 hours of total flight time.

Answers To Selected Questions Posed By The FAA

ATP Certificate for All Pilots Operating Under Part 121

  • Is a minimum of 1,500 hours adequate in order to receive an unrestricted ATP certificate? Why or why not?

    Yes, 1500 hours is the statutory minimum and the FAA has not presented any evidence of a need to increase that requirement.

Aeronautical Experience Requirement in the Class of Airplane for the ATP Certificate Sought

  • Is 50 hours in class of airplane too high, too low, or adequate in order to receive an ATP certificate with airplane category multi-engine class rating?

    NATA concurs with the requirement for 50 hours in class of airplane.

Aircraft Type Rating for All Pilots Operating Under Part 121

  • Should all SICs be required to hold an aircraft type rating if the aircraft currently requires a type rating for the PIC, regardless of the rule part under which the aircraft is operated (e.g. Part 91, 125, or 135)? Why or why not?

    NATA believes this question is not relevant to this rulemaking as the FAA has not proposed such a requirement or its rational for doing so. Absent conclusive evidence of a need for requiring a type rating for SIC in Part 91, 125 or 135, NATA would not agree with any proposal to do so. A pilot’s gaining of experience in actual SIC operations is highly valuable and provides an avenue to higher certification for the pilot.

ATP Certification Training Program for an Airplane Category Multi-engine Class Rating or Type Rating

  • Should pilots wanting to obtain an ATP certificate with airplane category multi-engine class rating or type rating be required to take an additional training course prior to taking the knowledge test? Why or why not?

    NATA supports the idea of additional classroom and flight experience requirements for the issuance of an ATP certificate. However, we do not support the proposed requirement of an “approved” training program. NATA asserts that if the FAA believes that an “approved” training program for ATP is essential then it is up to the agency to provide evidence of that need as opposed to using a less burdensome alternative such as increasing knowledge and experience requirement. NATA does not support the requirement of a mandatory turbine flight simulator training for all multi-engine and type rating ATP certificates.

  • If academic training is required in an ATP certification training course, what topics are appropriate? How many hours are appropriate for such a course?

    NATA supports the findings of the FOQ ARC in this matter.

  • Should an ATP certification training course include non-type specific FSTD training on concepts that are generally universal to transport category aircraft? Why or why not?

    No. A requirement such as this shifts the cost burden of training for air carrier operations from the air carrier to the individual pilot. This type of training would, by necessity, be very general in nature and immediately be superseded by airline initial training and, therefore, provide little additional benefit for the costs imposed on the individual pilot.

  • If FSTD training is required, what level of FSTD is appropriate? How many hours are appropriate?

    NATA does not support mandated generalized FSTD training as a prerequisite for ATP certification.

  • Based on the proposed content of the ATP Certification Training Program, what changes or reductions could be made to a Part 121 air carrier training program?

    None. Surely it is not the FAA’s intent to allow Part 121 air carriers to reduce their training hours due to training provided by another air carrier or third-party training provider. In the event that an air carrier provides the pre-certification training to its own pilots, credit should be allowed to apply to the carriers training program.

  • The FAA assumes Parts 121, 135, 141, and 142 certificate holders will be able to provide the ATP Certification Training Program. What factors would these certificate holders principally consider in determining whether or not to offer the course?

    The costs imposed by the simulator training requirement (to include one-off contracts for training – i.e. not bulk, and travel costs) will be a strong disincentive for the Part 135 operator to provide training so a pilot (new hire or otherwise) could obtain an ATP. Many Part 135 certificate holders conduct operations where an ATP is not required to serve as PIC. However, today many operators for various safety, insurance and liability reasons do provide the pilot with the training and support necessary to obtain an ATP and also require an ATP to serve as PIC. If implemented as proposed, the requirements of the ATP CTP will serve as a strong disincentive for Part 135 operators to comply with a higher standard than is required, posing a negative safety consequence.

    For many operators utilizing non-type rated multi-engine aircraft, the mandate to provide 16 hours of turbine simulator time is costly and creates a negative learning possibility for the pilot. Learning to operate a jet aircraft when the intended operations are in multi-engine piston or turbo-prop aircraft provides little benefit to the pilot, the air carrier and ultimately the passenger/customer. The substantial costs to supply simulator time in an aircraft that is totally unlike the aircraft the pilot will fly for the operator is enough of a negative consequence for operators to change their policies regarding whether a PIC has an ATP.

    Because the ATP CTP requires simulator time, the FAA is mandating that Part 135 operators contract with Part 142 training centers. Today, there are no mandates in Part 135 to use simulators – all required training may be conducted in-house and in-aircraft. No Part 135 operators of which we are aware own or exclusively lease their own simulators. Due to the aircraft fleet diversity present in Part 135, it is absolutely impractical for the certificate holder to even contemplate simulator acquisition. NATA strongly objects to the FAA’s effective mandate for Part 135 that they contract with a third party for pilot training by failing to provide an in-house, in-aircraft training option.

ATP Certificate With Restricted Privileges Based on Academic and Military Training
  • Should the FAA offer an ATP certificate with restricted privileges for pilots with fewer than 1,500 flight hours based on academic training and/or experience? Why or why not? If so, how many hours would be appropriate? Should anyone other than military pilots or graduates of four-year colleges and universities with aviation-related degrees and commercial pilot certificates with instrument ratings obtained from an affiliated Part 141 pilot school be eligible? Why or why not?

    Not as proposed. Congress provided the FAA the ability to allow for reduced hours based upon a balance of safety assessment. The FAA has performed no such assessment. NATA supports reduced hours in a comprehensive system of experience and training credits similar to that proposed by the FOQ ARC.

  • Should military pilots be allowed to receive an ATP certificate with restricted privileges? Why or why not? If so, is the proposed 750 hours too high, too low, or adequate?

    Allowing reduction in total flight hours for former military pilots should be a part of any comprehensive assessment of the many existing advance training programs and courses.

  • Should graduates of four-year colleges and universities with aviation-related majors and commercial pilot certificates with instrument ratings obtained from an affiliated Part 141 pilot school be allowed to receive an ATP certificate with restricted privileges? Why or why not? If so, is the proposed 1,000 hours too high, too low, or adequate?

    As stated in the specific comments, NATA believes that there is a safety value to many different training programs that are above the existing certification minimum. NATA disagrees with the FAA’s approach of singling out only two possible sources for flight hour credit and believes the dangers of providing such a limited set of options outweighs the possible benefits. NATA would, however, support a comprehensive framework similar to that proposed by the FOQ ARC.

  • Should the FAA consider an alternative licensing structure for pilots who desire only to fly for a Part 121 air carrier (e.g. multicrew pilot license)? Why or why not?

    NATA is supportive of any efforts to utilize a training regimen that is based upon the latest science, provides the greatest benefit to safety and is cost effective.

Minimum of 1,000 Hours in Air Carrier Operations To Serve as PIC in Part 121 Operations
  • Should the proposed PIC time in Part 91 subpart K or Part 135 operations count towards the Part 121 PIC requirement? Why or why not?

    Yes. Part 135 and 91K operations occur in diverse areas of operations – with flights to and from thousands of more airports than those served by the Part 121 carriers. The flight planning, operational requirements/restrictions, and dispatch functions are all very similar to the Part 121 environment.

  • Should SIC time outside of Part 121 operations count towards the proposed requirement? Why or why not?

    Yes, experience in multiple operational scenarios is beneficial to the overall skills of the pilot.


NATA appreciates the opportunity to present its comments on this NPRM. NATA believes that producing knowledgeable, proficient and safe pilots is vital to the ongoing success of our industry. We also believe that training should be science based. The last few decades have seen significant improvements in our understanding of how individual learn and retain information and skills. NATA is alarmed by what appears to be a turn away from science-based training and a return to a statistical model of training (i.e., given enough time it is statistically likely that a pilot will have encountered enough varying environments to ensure that they are proficient). The statistical model is not just outdated, it is costly. Today’s air carrier operations demand well trained and experienced pilots, a result that is best obtained by defined training options and experience. NATA hopes the FAA will proceed in a manner that takes into account what we have learned about how pilots learn and applies that knowledge in a manner that creates safer pilots at a reasonable cost.

Michael France
Director, Regulatory Affairs


1 See 77 Federal Register at 12390 and Initial Regulatory Evaluation, Docket #, FAA-2010-0100-1352, page 14

2 See 77 Federal Register at 12383

3 Initial Regulatory Evaluation, pages 14-16

4 It should be noted that even when assuming training is provided directly by an air carrier for its own employees, the FAA has still failed to account for the dramatic cost differences between Part 121 operations and smaller Part 135 and 91 subpart k operators. These smaller operators do not have the ability to utilize in-house training personnel to the same extent as a large airline and usually train far smaller class sizes (often one or two pilots at a time). This lack of ability to utilize efficiencies the way large airlines do would lead to significantly higher costs. Should the FAA reject NATA’s comment that costs of the ATP CTP should be computed based upon impact to the regulated individual pilot, NATA asserts that the FAA still must modify its estimates to reflect the higher training costs faced by Part 135 and 91 subpart K operators.

5 Proposed 14 CFR 61 Section 154(b), 77 Federal Register, at 12402

6 Each of the areas for which the FOQ ARC proposes offering credit include a combination of knowledge (academic) and flight training or experience. The proposed four- year aviation degree + Commercial pilots Certificate is identical in that it also requires a combination of knowledge (degree) and flight training (commercial pilot certification).

For general press inquiries, contact Shannon Chambers at 703-298-1347 or

The National Air Transportation Association (NATA) has been the voice of aviation business for over 75 years. Representing nearly 2,300 aviation businesses, NATA’s member companies provide a broad range of services to general aviation, the airlines and the military and NATA serves as the public policy group representing the interests of aviation businesses before Congress and the federal agencies.