Up in the Air

Tuesday, August 3, 2010 - 4:30pm

EL PASO - A new federal law could leave regional airlines grounded... and potentially send the cost of flying to soaring heights.

February 12, 2009... a commuter plane crash lands near Buffalo, New York... killing one on the ground and all 49 on board.  At the center of the investigation... the crew's lack of experience with handling emergency situations.  As a result... pilots must now earn 15-hundred hours of flight time... an amount 6 times higher than the previous requirement.

"This is mainly for the commuter airlines which is, like I said, it's going to increase safety."

Lyle Byrum... director of operations for ATI Jet... says the new measure could leave the future of regional carriers up in the air... as more-experienced pilots typically earn larger salaries.

"The commuter airline industry had a history of low wages for the pilots and that's well-known and to acquire a pilot to meet the new requirements for a second in command is going to increase the cost of the operation of the airline which will probably increase the cost of the tickets."

Byrum says the law pertains to the second-in-command... rather than the pilot.

"We think it's good the FAA and congress did something.  I think their focus was not actually in the right place...I think they should have done more for the pilot in command requirements for commuters as our pilot in command requirements are much higher to fly our jets then it is for a commuter pilot in command."

Both pilots involved in the ill-fated flight near Buffalo had more than 15-hundred hours of experience at the time of the crash.

The law doesn't affect pilots of large carriers because they already meet the new experience requirement.

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