Posted at: 09/13/2011 10:57 PM
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) - Federal rules that will require more flight hours to become an airline pilot are raising concerns among collegiate flight schools, whose officials worry that new requirements could force graduates to spend thousands of dollars to increase their airtime.
The Journal & Courier reports that pilots graduating from Purdue University's Department of Aviation Technology usually have accumulated about 300 hours of flight time. But a law passed by Congress last year in response to the crash of a plane in Buffalo, N.Y., could require a minimum of 1,500 hours.
"The question being asked now is, how do you get from 300 hours to 1,500 hours?" said Mike Suckow assistant department head for academic programs in Purdue University's Department of Aviation Technology.
The law, which takes effect in August 2013, stems from the February 2009 crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407 near Buffalo, N.Y. All 49 people on board and one person on the ground died in the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board said both pilots were probably fatigued but that wasn't a direct cause of the crash.
Some aviation groups have requested that the Federal Aviation Administration consider decreasing required hours for pilots who are trained at programs like Purdue's Professional Flight Technology.
Suckow noted that Purdue students have the rare ability to graduate with a jet flight rating as part of their undergraduate degree, and he contends Purdue's training should be sufficient.
"If we offer a program that offers the skill with the certified training, then why not?" he said.
Aviation masters student Greg Taylor, who logged about 550 hours during four years as a Purdue undergraduate and part-time flight instructor, said he agrees with the 1,500-hour rule for pilots who have never been through military or collegiate training.
"I think there absolutely should be an exception for collegiate programs," he said. "But if they wanted to make the rule for 1,500 I don't think it is bad. You need to be 100 percent confident of when you are flying people around."
He said he is worried the FAA rule won't specify what type of flight is required to reach 1,500 hours.
"Is it going to help if you get to 1,500 by flying banners around?," he said. "If the rule happens, some of my friends won't be able to get jobs right out of graduation."