An overhaul of commercial pilot rules was passed by Congress on Friday morning as part of a Federal Aviation Administration extension bill.
The legislation, which President Obama is expected to sign into law this weekend, increases the minimum flight experience for first officers from 250 hours to 1,500 hours and requires the FAA to propose new rules on pilot schedules to prevent fatigue.
Proponents of the rule changes say that it could force regional airlines to hire more pilots and possibly lead to higher salaries of pilots at regional carriers.
“This legislation brings much-needed improvements to aviation safety in the U.S. by addressing many of the pilot screening, training and certification issues that are the result of the airline industry’s intense focus on the lowest possible operating costs," said Capt. John Prater, president of the Air Line Pilots Association.
ALPA represents 2,700 pilots that fly at American Eagle, the regional carrier owned by Fort Worth-based AMR Corp.
The pilot rule changes were prompted after a series of deadly regional carrier crashes in the U.S. including one near Buffalo-Niagara International Airport in February 2009 where 49 people on board, and one person on the ground, were killed. In that incident, the National Transportation Safety Board investigators faulted the pilots and deficiencies in their training by regional carrier Colgan Air.
More details on the legislation can be found in an Associated Press article here.