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The 1500 Hour Rule - Restricted ATP Requirements for First Officers

1500 Hour Rule

Looking for a job at the airlines? The requirements to become a first officer (second in command, or "SIC") have changed with the new "1500 Hour Rule" and are more stringent than ever before. I'll walk you through the new requirements to become an SIC, as well as how most pilots can get the experience necessary to reach their airline goals.

Requirements for airline first officers (SICs)

The FAA changed the rules for first officers - announcing new requirements on July 10, 2013. In short, on August 1, 2013, the FAA requires SIC's to hold an Airline Transport Pilot Certificate (ATP), but the certificate may have restricted privileges. An ATP with restricted privileges requires you to:

  • Be 21 years old
  • Hold a Commercial Pilot Certificate with an Instrument Rating
  • Complete an Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program (ATP CTP)
  • Pass the ATP knowledge and practical test
  • And meet the flight time requirements of FAR 61.160 - roughly 1,500 hours

Before this change, SIC's only needed a Commercial Pilot Certificate - roughly 250 hours of flight time - so this is a big change. However, the FAA recognizes that great training can make up for some raw experience. They've made exceptions for pilots coming through certain training programs, allowing them to earn an ATP with restricted privileges in less time. The exceptions are:

  • Military pilots need only 750 hours total flight time and 200 hours cross-country time
  • Graduates from approved four-year universities with a Bachelor's degree and an aviation major need only 1000 hours total flight time and 200 hours cross-country time if they:
    • Complete at least 60 credit hours of aviation related coursework, and
    • Hold a Commercial Pilot Certificate that was earned through the university's part 141 training program
    • If they complete less than 60 credit hours, but at least 30 credit hours, they need 1250 hours total flight time and 200 hours cross-country time
  • Graduates from approved two-year colleges with an Associate's degree and an aviation major need only 1250 hours total flight time and 200 hours cross-country time if they:
    • Complete at least 30 credit hours of aviation related coursework, and
    • Hold a Commercial Pilot Certificate that was earned through the school's part 141 training program.
  • Other pilots need 1500 hours total time and 200 hours cross-country time

Full time requirements for an ATP with restricted privileges

Total flight time and cross-country time aren't the only requirements for an ATP. In total, you'll need:

  • 1500, 1250, 1000, or 750 hours of total flight time
    • You can get up to 100 hours in an airplane full flight simulator or flight training device, if it was flown during an approved training course at a part 121, 135, 141, or 142 school
  • 200 hours of cross-country flight time
  • 100 hours of night flight time
    • If you've performed more than 20 night takeoffs and landings to a full stop, you can count each additional takeoff/landing pair as one hour of night flight time - up to 25 hours of total night credit
  • 50 hours of multi-engine flight time, but you can get 25 hours in a full flight simulator if done in an approved training program
  • 75 hours of instrument flight time (actual or simulated)
    • You can count up to 25 hours in a flight simulator or a flight training device while training with an instructor
  • 250 hours of pilot in command (PIC) time, including
    • At least 100 hours of cross-country time
    • At least 25 hours of night flight time

Simple - right? There are more exceptions, but they are rarely used. You can read the full requirements on the FAA's site here: http://gobold.me/16mi8Yh, and the restricted privileges here: http://gobold.me/18PAuBh.

What is the ATP CTP? Where can I take it?

Beginning July 31, 2014, pilots must complete an Airline Transport Pilot Certification Training Program (ATP CTP) before taking the ATP written exam. The course will train pilots on how to fly in an airline environment, including ground and flight training in a flight simulator (or FSTD). The FAA expects that most regional airlines will add this course to their initial training programs. You will probably take this course once you're hired at a regional. However, some universities and other flight schools may offer this course, as well.

Hope is not lost - You can get the time

Most of us can't afford to buy this flight time - and you'd probably earn it very slowly. For civilian pilots, the best opportunity is to complete an approved Bachelor's or Associate's degree program at a part 141 flight school. Then - flight instruct. While there are many other ways to earn flight time as a commercial pilot (crop dusting, banner towing, pipeline patrol, etc.), 90% of us earned our hours as a flight instructor. In one day as an instructor, I could fly six to eight hours - that was two weeks of flying when I was a student.

I took a quick poll of some four year universities with large flight programs, and they estimated that a CFI could earn the time in 18 months to two years. However, you'll need to plan. Most schools primarily hire their graduates. Training at a school that has a constant supply of students and regularly hires instructors makes it much easier to get your flight time.

Earn your CFI, CFII and MEI

Focus on earning your instructor certificates. Adding an instrument rating to a flight instructor certificate (CFII) helps you reach the instrument hour requirements. Many schools include long cross-country flights in their multi-engine courses, so adding the multi-engine rating to your instructor certificate (MEI) can help, too.

It's been like this before

While the ATP rule for SIC's is new, airline hour requirements have changed over time. When I graduated in 2001, regional airlines required applicants to have around 1000-1500 total hours, often with 500 hours in a multi-engine aircraft. Times changed - and as the regional airlines grew, their minimum requirements dropped. While you probably won't be able to apply to a regional six months after you graduate college, you still can get in the industry, and you'll be more prepared for your airline career.

Good luck and #flysharp!

Aleks Udris

Aleks is a Boldmethod co-founder and technical director. He's worked in safety and operations in the airline industry, and was a flight instructor and course manager for the University of North Dakota. You can reach him at aleks@boldmethod.com.

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