Regional airlines -- derided by some as "puddle jumpers" -- will be forced to hire more experienced and better trained pilots under an aviation safety bill approved by Congress Friday and sent to President Obama for his signature.
The impetus was the crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407 that took 49 lives near the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport on Feb. 12, 2009. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation faulted actions by the aircraft's pilots, and also shortcomings in pilot training at Colgan Air, the regional carrier contracted by Continental. The last six fatal airline accidents in the United States involved regional carriers, the Associated Press
Safety legislation, approved by the Senate Friday, requires higher experience levels for pilots, improved training, and investigation of applicants' previous employment records. Minimum experience for a first officer would go from 250 hours of flight time to 1,500 hours, the same level required of captains.
Regional companies account for more than half of all domestic flights due to outsourcing of short flights by major airlines, the AP said.