For Aspiring Pilots, New Proposed Regulations Bring More Opportunity

On February 27th the FAA addressed the multitude of questions which arose following the passage of the law referred to as H.R. 5900 or the “1500 Hour Rule” as it has come to be known in some circles. The FAA released its long awaited Notice of Proposed Rule-making (NPRM) which introduced the agencies proposed application of the law passed by Congress in July of 2010.

The NPRM is written in legalize of course, and it takes some time to summarize. ATP did a very good job of explaining H.R. 5900 when it was first passed and you can read that explanation on the ATP website. Now, in response to a multitude of questions heard around the country and the internet, ATP has broken down what the NPRM is all about and what it means to aspiring professional pilots at this time. Based on my decades of experience in the airline industry, this explanation makes a lot of sense and is right on point so I am including it today.

Big Picture for Your Career

For aspiring professional pilots, career prospects have never been better. In a time of rapidly increasing demand for pilots, regulators are further restricting supply. ATP believes that this will exacerbate the pilot shortage faced by airlines, and ultimately work in your favor with increased pay and benefits over the term of your career.

New Regulatory Changes

Two years ago, in reaction to a regional turboprop airliner crash, congress passed and the president signed into law the Airline Safety Act of 2010. Although its mandates lack significant correlation to the causes of the accident, the act is well-intentioned to generally enhance the level of qualifications for new airline pilots. Fast forward to 2012, and the FAA has now issued its Notice of Proposed Rule-making (NPRM) to advise the public of what changes to expect in the regulations prompted by congress.

ATP Embraces Future Standards Today

ATP supports the requirements for enhanced qualifications of flight crewmembers. In fact, ATP has always advocated training commercial pilots in multi-engine aircraft for safety and the benefit of learning in more difficult operating conditions. In the NPRM, the FAA praises fast track-style training that military pilots receive. ATP follows the same model as the U.S. military in providing total immersion training that focuses on intense flight experience.

New requirements for an Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program are modeled after the advanced jet training found in ATP’s Regional Jet Standards Certification program. Airlines like American Eagle and ExpressJet have long-recognized the benefits of advanced jet training, going so far as to sponsor pilots’ advanced jet training with ATP, and conducting an extensive study that proves better performance of advanced jet training graduates in airlines’ approved training programs.

Less Supply of Airline Pilots

At the core of the proposed regulations is that all airline pilots—captains and first officers—must have an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate by August of 2013. The ATP certificate comes with an eligibility requirement of between 750 and 1500 hours of total flight time (the “1500 hour rule”), with 750 hours applying to military pilots and 1500 hours applying to most civilian pilots. For civilian-trained pilots, this represents about a 700-hour increase over current airline hiring minimums.

Today, regional airlines are hiring every qualified pilot they can recruit at about 800 hours. When the minimum flight experience jumps to 1500 hours, very few pilots will be available because they all got hired with less total time before the increase. It will take time to create a sustainable pipeline of pilots meeting the new flight experience requirements. While this will be painful to the airlines, the pilot shortage will work to your benefit.

More Demand for Airline Pilots

Regional airlines project hiring well over 1000 pilots in 2012. If the 1500 hour rule was in place today, the airlines simply could not meet their demand for pilots. Today’s hiring projections are conservative and based on major airline retirements more than growth. Major airline retirements trigger upgrades and hiring at the majors, which draw senior pilots away from the regionals and result in more regional airline pilot hiring.

To help airlines better understand the pilot training and qualification pipeline and prepare for the pilot shortage, ATP created PilotPool.com, a pilot recruitment website that focuses on the supply side of pilot recruitment. PilotPool.com will become increasingly important as airlines begin recruiting pilots earlier in training before reaching 1500 hours. PilotPool.com is available free of charge to airlines and ATP graduates.

But suppose the demand for pilots is less than we anticipate. In that case, the most qualified—as opposed to minimum qualified—pilot will get hired. Even in this environment, ATP graduates will get the jobs, with more multi-engine experience than any other candidates.

Bottom Line

ATP believes these regulatory changes, supported by pilot unions, will improve pilot career prospects in the long run. Airlines will change course: pay will increase, benefits will expand, and work rules will improve. As an aspiring professional pilot, you will be highly sought-after in a job market short of qualified pilots. With all airlines’ minimums set to the same 1500-hour level, you no longer have to choose the first airline to offer you a job, but the best airline for your location and lifestyle.

Now more than ever, seniority is everything. Pilots who start their Fast Track Airline Career Pilot Program with ATP in 2012 will have access to airline jobs before the new regulations take effect, and effectively gain two years’ seniority in one year. Pilots who train with ATP already get the advanced training that the FAA will make the new standard for everyone else in 2013 — giving you an edge over other candidates today.

Supply and demand are working in favor of aspiring professional pilots. Now is the best time to start training for a rewarding airline career.