WASHINGTON — Washington is witnessing a growing movement among lawmakers and regulators to reconsider the contentious rule mandating new commercial airline pilots to have 1,500 flight hours. 

During a House Transportation Committee hearing on April 19, legislators and various aviation executives advocated for modifications to allow new pilots more credit for time spent in flight simulators and airline training programs.

The 1,500-hour rule, introduced in 2013, has been criticized for contributing to the industry-wide pilot shortage without significantly improving new pilots' preparedness for airline work. The Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) strongly supports the rule. Committee chair and Republican Congressman Sam Graves calls for rule adjustments, stating that flight hours do not necessarily reflect a pilot's capabilities and emphasizing the need for better training methods.

Faye Malarkey Black, CEO of the Regional Airline Association (RAA), argues that pilots are currently accumulating flight hours at the cost of the quality and recency of their training. The RAA represents US regional airlines, and Malarkey Black asserts that new pilots joining airlines have extensive flight time but are unprepared for the job.

The 1,500-hour requirement was established by the US Congress after a fatal De Havilland Canada Dash 8 turboprop crash in 2009, which was attributed to pilot error. Presently, most new pilots need 1,500 flight hours before joining airlines, but military pilots can do so with 750 hours, and university graduates can work with 750 or 1,000 hours.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) allows 100 hours in flight simulators to count towards the 1,500-hour requirement. Critics argue that new pilots often resort to low-paying jobs, such as flight instructing or banner towing, to accumulate hours. However, these jobs do not expose them to structured training programs, complex cockpit systems, or severe weather conditions.