October 04, 2023

Duckworth Pushes for FAA Nominee to Uphold Pilot Training Certification Standards Like the 1,500-Hour Rule, Prioritize Aviation Safety


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – During today’s U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (CST) nominations hearing for Michael Whitaker to serve as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL)—Chair of the CST Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation—pushed for Whitaker to uphold the highest standards for airline transport pilot certification, including the 1,500-hour rule, if he is confirmed. In her remarks, Duckworth underscored the importance of not only defending the minimum real world flight hours requirement, but also working to increase the rigor of what type of flying counts towards meeting the 1,500-hour rule given this year’s alarming aviation safety crisis. In the past year, our nation has seen a chilling surge in near-deadly misses involving commercial airlines that likely stems from plummeting aviation workforce experience levels after airlines paid tens of thousands of their most experienced pilots to stop flying, along with a wave of air traffic controller retirements.

“At a time when our nation is experiencing an alarming aviation safety crisis, we need an FAA leader who will uphold the strongest pilot experience and training certification standards so we can keep the flying public safe before our luck runs out and this year’s near-misses become next year’s deadly collisions,” said Duckworth. “I appreciate FAA nominee Whitaker’s commitment to follow the law regarding the 1,500-hour rule and will continue my discussions with Mr. Whitaker on how he plans to do everything in his power to aggressively push the FAA to proactively strengthen safety standards to prevent a repeat of the deadly Colgan crash. The next FAA Administrator must adopt a ‘more is better’ approach when it comes to safety and reject a zero-sum mentality that threatens to make this safety crisis worse, not better.”

U.S. Senator Peter Welch (D-VT) today aptly dubbed “the Duckworth standard of safety” as he spoke about the committee’s work on FAA Reauthorization. Throughout FAA reauthorization negotiations, Duckworth has been a fierce, outspoken advocate of the 1,500-hour rule, having delivered an impassioned speech on the Senate floor on the importance of upholding the strong pilot certification standards and warning her colleagues of the deadly consequences of complacency in aviation. Duckworth’s efforts on this follow a recent surge in disturbing near-misses and close calls that prompted the FAA to hold an unprecedented safety summit and spurred an ongoing investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board to determine whether these frightening incidents may be precursor events that, left unaddressed, are a sign that the Part 121 system is vulnerable to a horrific crash.

Last month, Duckworth virtually met with Whitaker to discuss many critical issues facing our aviation industry, including efforts to weaken the 1,500-hour rule. As one of the authors of the bipartisan FAA Reauthorization Act of 2023, Duckworth successfully secured several provisions that will improve safety for consumers, expand the aviation workforce and enhance protections for travelers with disabilities. As introduced, the FAA reauthorization bill would extend FAA’s authorities through the Fiscal Year 2028 without degrading pilot certification standards.