The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed the first increase in flight hours required to become a co-pilot for a commercial air carrier since 1973. The previous increase raised the minimum from 200 to 250. The latest proposal raises the 250 hour threshold to 1,500 hours, which would match the requirements for pilots. The new threshold was made necessary by a safety law passed after a Buffalo, New York, aviation accident killed 50 people in February 2009. That crash created significant pressure to review the safety measures taken at regional airlines, as well as the hiring, training and working conditions of pilots.
In addition to needing 1,500 flight hours, co-pilots would also need to meet the same requirements as pilots in terms of a "type rating" that pertains to the aircraft they might have to operate. According to the acting administrator of the FAA, the "right training and the right qualifications" are what is necessary to prepare pilots and co-pilots for the situations they might face. The new rules would hold co-pilots to the same standards as pilots and help ensure that commercial air carriers were always crewed by properly experienced professionals.
While the training and skill requirements facing co-pilots would exactly mirror that of pilots, the regulations did leave two exceptions to the 1,500 hour rule. Military pilots would only require 750 hours of flight time to fly a commercial air carrier and people who graduate from a university or college flight school would only require 1,000 hours. It is not clear if that exception answered the concerns of university flight schools, which have been among the loudest critics of the proposed change.
Many airlines already required co-pilots to have 1,500 hours of flight time. Those that do not may be forced to raise wages or find other ways to attract co-pilots with the necessary experience.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, "FAA wants to boost airline pilot qualifications," 27 February 2012