How To Build Flight Time
Building flight time is a challenge for many pilots. The method
in which you build flight time will be different than your
fellow pilots. Many pilot hold several flying jobs to help
them build the minimum flight experiences (link) required
by the major/national airlines and large corporations. You
should expect to spend four to six years building the required
flight hours and experience to qualify for a position at a
major/national airline or large corporation.
After earning your pilot
certificates and ratings (i.e. commercial certificate,
instrument and multi-engine ratings), you may have approximately
200-300 hours of total flight time. This may be enough hours
to help you start your first flying job, but not enough
to “land” you a job with a major/national airline,
corporation, or business due to your inexperience.
When searching for a pilot job, many employers
will ask you about your total flight time, pilot-in-command
(PIC) time, multi-engine time, instrument time, night-time,
cross-country time, and possibly others such as turbine
time which is dependent on their type of operation.
Here is a sample list of practical methods
to build flight time. If you have other time-building ideas,
please forward them to us.
a Flight Instructor
Earn your Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) certificate
and/or Certified Instrument Instructor (CFII), and Multi-Engine
Instructor (MEI) ratings to teach other students how
to fly, build flight time, and earn money. This is the
easiest, quickest, and cheapest method to build quality
Banner-towing consists of flying a small airplane with
a company’s large banner sign attached to the
airplane’s tail to market their products or services.
Aerial photography involves flying photographers around
landmarks, farmland, etc. to allow them to take photographs.
Towing gliders involves helping the glider become airborne
and releasing a cable to allow them to sail the sky.
Dropping skydivers involve flying to a pre-determined
altitude and allowing the skydivers to jump out the
for Traffic Watch
Many local radio and TV stations hire pilots to report
traffic or to fly their traffic reporters around the
city to report traffic congestion, delays, accidents,
as a Safety Pilot
There are many instrument rated pilots that need to
keep current, you should offer to be a safety pilot
and allow them to fly under the hood (simulated instrument
flying) and execute a few approaches. In exchange for
flying as a safety pilot, ask if you could execute a
few approaches for helping them out.
flight time with other pilots
There are other pilots seeking ways to build flight
time who are willing to split the cost of renting an
airplane, especially a multi-engine airplane.
Some companies hire pilots to deliver airplanes from
one airport to another such as the showroom, maintenance
facility, or to the owner’s location.
out at the airport
Hanging out at the airport will allow you to meet other
pilots, especially pilots with their own airplane. Some
pilots will ask others to fly with them on a trip to
have lunch or something, since flying alone is boring.
If you offer to ride along with some pilots, it may
lead to you earning some flight time.
a Flying Club
Join a flying club or organization and rent their airplane(s).
Flying clubs allow their members to rent the clubs aircraft
at a reasonable hourly fee. As a member, you will also
have to pay membership dues, which are typically used
for aircraft maintenance, fuel, etc. Register and search
AvScholars’ Organizations/Clubs Directory
to find a Flying Club near you.
your flying services
Volunteer your flying services to various organizations
(i.e. Angel Flight) that need pilots.
Many charter companies and businesses that have their
own airplane may have a single pilot operation (meaning:
there’s only one pilot flying customers or the
boss around). Ask the pilot and the company, if you
could ride along. This type of initiative may lead to
a possible job offer, whenever a job position is vacant.
Network with fellow pilots and others within the aviation
industry. “It’s not what you know, but who
you know.” Networking in any field will help you
learn about various job opportunities, industry trends,
Some flight schools allow pilots to purchase a certain
number of flight hours (“Block-time”) at
a reduced rate. If you purchase “block-time”,
you should be informed about the company’s scheduling,
no-show, cancellation, and refund policies. This is
the most expensive method of building flight time.
If you have the money, buy an airplane on your own or
with a partner. If you buy an airplane with a partner,
you should have some form of agreement about maintenance,
Checks or Cargo
There are a few companies that hire pilots to fly cancelled
checks or cargo to nearby cities.
to a Regional Airline
Many pilots use the regional airlines as a “stepping
stone” to accumulate the necessary flight hours
and experience to apply to the major/national airlines.
Some regional airlines hire pilots from flight schools,
in which they have formed a partnership. Regional airline
pilots fly under FAR Part 121, turbine powered airplanes,
modern equipment and avionics into high traffic airports.
Major/national airlines prefer to hire pilots whose
background consist of working for regional airlines
due to their flight experience.