Some smaller regional airlines have pushed for changes to the current rule that requires pilots to have 1,500 hours of training before they can fly for a commercial airline, arguing the rule is contributing to continuing pilot workforce problems. Sinema’s amendment, drawn up with Sen. John Thune (RS.D.), would allow certain types of airline training programs to be weighted more heavily against that 1,500-hour requirement than they currently are — a proposal similar to those already rejected by the Biden administration.
Sinema, who is caucusing with the Democrats, did not immediately receive any comments.
The matter came to public attention on Thursday during a difficult period for the industry, with air travel climbing sharply towards pre-pandemic levels at the same time as the system saw a spate of near misses earlier this year. year. Although airlines and the Federal Aviation Administration appear to have, for now, arrested the near-miss problem, even another near-collision with half the year remaining would be a dire free-fall warning for an aviation system that has a record security otherwise enviable in recent years.
Duckworth hinted at near misses during his speech, calling 2023 « a chilling year » for aviation safety. He said his experience as « a pilot responsible for the lives of my crew and passengers in the most dangerous conditions » and leadership on the Aviation Safety Subcommittee « means I cannot be complicit in efforts to compromise safety for the public. » steering wheel ».
« There has never been a worse time to consider relaxing pilot certification requirements to produce less experienced pilots, » he said.
Duckworth said the pilot shortage was « real and painful » and that he understood « the temptation to cut corners or chase the false promise of a quick fix to a systemic challenge ». But he said he had asked for details on how many additional pilots would be available if the minimum hours were reduced and had not received « precise estimates, let alone credible projections. »
The Regional Airline Association, the trade group for regional airlines responsible for the proposed changes, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The issue itself has been a long-standing and emotional one, considering that the 1,500 rule requirement stems from changes made by Congress to close aviation safety gaps revealed by a 2009 regional plane crash outside Buffalo, NY – the latest Most Accidental Aircraft crash involving a US airline. Regional carriers have pushed to water down that rule since it was enacted, siding against a group of family members of those lost on board who have pushed back.
« It is absolutely critical that we maintain current standards, » said Karen Eckert, whose sister died in the crash. “They have resulted in an unassailable safety record. Nothing we can do will ever bring our loved ones back, but we are committed to making sure what we experienced in 2009 doesn’t happen to anyone else. »
Alex Daugherty contributed to this report.