Real Answers from Real Pilots

1500 Hour Rule

I am still trying after all this time trying to wrap my head around this whole 1500 hour rule. I am well aware of how it came to be a reality, however I have yet to understand the actual theory behind it. Maybe I am looking at it the wrong way and correct me if I am wrong in my observations. The FAA is saying that it is perfectly acceptable for an individual with not more than a few hundred hours of flight experience and a CFI rating to go up in the air with an untrained student and instruct them on how to fly an aircraft. However that same instructor is not qualified to fly with an experienced Captain as part of a 2 person cabin. That just doesn’t add up to me, this rule seems like it is more politically motivated than safety oriented.

The claim is that pilots are more experienced due to the 1500 hours of TT. I am looking at the said experience that is being gained during this 1500 hours and am trying to wrap my brain around it. Flying around in a 172 in your local traffic pattern for 1,500 hours doesn’t make you “experienced.” A pilot that has 500 total hours, of which 250 is in multi crew turbine operations, has significantly more experience than a pilot with 1,500 total hours, all of which are in a 172.

My local flying crew would argue that these extra hours build your stick and rudder skills and build more confidence. I can’t speak for airlines I am not familiar with but most require the crew to use the autopilot shortly after takeoff during the climb out and remain engaged until just prior to landing. The operators say that this is for efficiency and safety.

Don’t get me wrong I am big on safety, checklists, procedure, etc. I just don’t see how adding all these raw TT hours directly contributes to experience and safety. I also think that in service training needs to be addressed as well, it seems that during in service training sessions only the big stuff is ever practiced, engine outs, sudden decompressions, loss of hydraulics, etc. How about every now and then we go back to basics and say hey, you stalled the airplane, recover.

Thoughts?

John,

To begin with, no airline that I am familiar with, or any of the ones I have worked for, require autopilot usage (the exception being certain low visibility approaches). In fact, the airlines strongly encourage people to work on their hand flying skills and practice them on a routine basis. As part of our every nine month checkrides, we are required to fly certain approaches by hand.

Secondly, the airlines absolutely do emphasis the basics. Stall prevention and recovery, along with upset recovery and the previously mentioned hand flown approaches are part of every single checkride.

I have been a 500 hour pilot, I have also been a newly minted regional pilot. While I can in some way see your argument, I would still disagree with it. I was hired at ExpressJet with 750 hours. I can see where another year of flying, including weather avoidance, winter operations, more instrument work, radio practice, etc could have really benefited me. A pilot who has 500 total hours, but 250 of them in a jet is still very in-experienced. That pilot has a lot to learn about flying in general, not just flying an airliner. I remember when Colgan Airlines was hiring pilots with 250 hours, quite honestly it was downright scary. The knowledge and experience was just not there with those pilots. Let’s also not forget that it was the crash of Colgan 3407 that precipitated these changes.

Would it be great if CFIs had more flight time? Sure, but a CFI position is an apprentice position, always has been and always will be and the FAA knows this. One good thing about CFIs being relatively new pilots is that their knowledge is fresh. As we all know, knowledge can fade with time.

Keep in mind that since the FAA instituted this rule, there has not been a single airliner crash in the US. Of course there are a whole host of reasons for this, but having experienced pilots is one of them.

Chris

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I can agree with your assessment and the examples provided. I see two types of pilots at my local FBO, ones like myself who spend the hours flying on trips to practice on the radio, instruments, and go to unfamiliar controlled airports. I like to learn and practice my craft. The others I see go up 2-3 times a week and never leave the comfort of our local uncontrolled space. We all choose to time build differently and at the end of the day they will have 1500 hours TT same as me. I would like to think that I would be the more experienced pilot due to the way I chose to gain my hours, but maybe not.

This is kind of how this whole thing came up. All of us are headed the same place, I can’t help but wonder how are they going to be as good as me just flying around in circles at the local FBO. In looking at the rule it doesn’t matter how you get the 1500 as long as you have it. Maybe if there was some proficiency guidelines in place for how you spend some of those 1500 hours I could wrap my head around it better.

Again, I don’t disagree with the 1500 hours of experience, just the fact that they don’t care about the quality of those 1500 hours after the first 250 or so.

John,

The 1500hr Rule has been argued and debated since it’s inception. Before we get to that let’s just clear up a few things.

In your post you yourself state that most airlines require autopilot use (which as Chris pointed out is incorrect, it’s often recommended but not required and I actually hand fly entire days). The fact is however that most airline pilots do use the AP most of the time. You then go on to “A pilot with 500 total hours, of which 250 is in multi crew turbine operations, has significantly more experience than a pilot with 1,500 total hours, all are in a 172”. Well, based on your AP thoughts than your 500hr turbine guy has been sitting there for half his time with the AP engaged while our 172 pilot has actually been flying so how can you possibly say the former has more experience? You’re also incorrect in what we do in our yearly training. There’s something called a Maneuvers Validations which does just that, validates our ability to fly basic maneuvers including stalls, approaches to stalls, high altitude stalls, and even dead stick landings.

Despite your misunderstand I actually agree with you. I’ve never been a fan of the 1500hr Rule as it places no emphasis on the quality of the hours, just the quantity. What’s funny to me is the 1500hr Rule helped create the pilot shortage, which caused an increase in pilot salaries, which caused an increase in interest in the career. Now it’s the new guys who want to get hired who are all complaining about the rule but it begs the question if the rule was gone and salaries went back to $18hr would these pilots even be pilots? You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Regardless the Rule is here to stay, like it or not and any conversation regarding it while interesting is purely academic. It is what it is.

Adam

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