The Air Current - Jon Ostrower and Elan Head

Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth sent up a trial balloon on the eve of a key set of U.S. House votes on changes to the so-called 1,500-hour rule that could erode the prospect of smooth bicameral passage of the Federal Aviation Administration’s pending reauthorization.

Senator Duckworth’s proposal would maintain the 1,500 flight-hour qualification for an Airline Transport Pilot certificate, which pilots need to fly for Part 121 air carriers, plus impose new flight experience requirements, including 900 hours of cross-country time, 200 hours of night flight time, and 75 hours operating under instrument flight rules in actual instrument meteorological conditions (IMC).

Changes to the 1,500-hour rule have been a polarizing political hot button as the U.S. airlines have absorbed regional airline pilots into their ranks at unprecedented rate amid both a transient and structural shortage of aviators that has deprived the smaller feeder carriers of qualified aviators resulting in lost service to smaller communities and grounded airplanes.

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