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Top 5 Ways Pilots Can Build Flight Time

Top 5 Ways Pilots Can Build Flight Time

Fresh out of pilot school and looking for that first job? Unfortunately landing your first job is tough. Really tough. Pilots need to build flight time as most aviation jobs require experience. So, what are the ways pilots can build flight time?

But this article will help by presenting some options to get there whilst saving some cash and time. 

You may be aware that most airlines demand a few hundred to more than a thousand flight hours as a prerequisite to apply for a first officer job! 

However, after you complete your flight training, you get a commercial pilot license or a frozen airline transport pilot license (ATPL) with around 200 hours of flight time.

So, how do you go about accruing those hours?

While it may not be easy, it’s definitely possible.

Next, we discuss five paths pilots can take to build flight time and launch an airline career.

Buy your Own Aircraft

Finding aircraft for sale and buying your own sounds a bit extreme, right?

But here’s the deal:

Buying an aircraft means you won’t ever have to pay rental fees, which results in a considerable saving if you want to log hundreds of hours.

You can also rent the aeroplane to other pilots, which would pay for or at least subsidise its parking/hangerage, maintenance, and even fuel while you fly it to collect hours.

Once you get the minimum total flight time you’re looking for, you then could sell your aircraft with minimum loss. Sometimes, you may even make a profit on the sale of your aircraft!

Aircraft don’t depreciate like cars do thanks to their strict level of maintenance, so find one that has the right amount of age/hours where most of the depreciation has already happened.

It’s also a good idea to pick an aircraft that’s Information Flight Rules (IFR) capable as airlines hold instrument time in higher regard than visual flight time (VFR).

Wondering what aircraft to buy?

Here’s a list of popular training aeroplanes:

All available on Find Aircraft For Sale, just click the links. Also, take a look at our single-engine category for some great deals. Remember you can easily see and filter by location via the map search.

If you want our staff to find you a bargain from all sources (websites, catalogues, Facebook) based on your specific criteria, and alert you before publishing live on our site for first refusal then consider our First Alert service. We’ll look for bargains on your behalf. 

Overall, owning an airplane makes for a great option to gain flight experience to meet the flight time requirements of the airlines.

Become a Flight Instructor

Instructing budding pilots constitutes another viable way to build flight time.

As a flight instructor, you’re constantly refreshing your aeronautical knowledge through preparation of flight lessons. 

You also keep your piloting skills sharp as you regularly demonstrate manoeuvres, procedures, and actions to your students.

The best part?

You get paid a decent hourly rate for flight lessons.

A significant number of jobs require no more than a CPL or a frozen ATPL with a flight instructor certificate. Some flight schools even offer flight instructor training programmes with guaranteed employment after completion.

If you manage to combine it with buying an aircraft, then you’ll make additional income through rental fees as well.

Join a Cadet Pilot Programme

Airlines worldwide took notice of the predicament fresh pilots encounter after graduation. Therefore, many started cadet pilot programmes.

Such programmes present the quickest solution to the challenge of launching an airline career. For example, Ryanair offers a sponsored cadet programme where you get a salary from day one.

But becoming a cadet pilot is a challenge in itself.

As the airlines are looking for the best candidates, you’ll have to pass rigorous assessments, tests, and interviews.

Once you get through the selection process, you then have to pass a type rating course. Thereafter, you stay under scrutiny by the airlines while training to become a first officer.

Get an Entry-level Pilot Job 

Air transport accounts for one part of the aviation industry.

Several other operations require pilots, including aerial photography, survey, and skydiving.

Often, these jobs have significantly lower flight time minimums, but getting those jobs is easier said than done.

Entry-level pilot jobs are significantly fewer than airline vacancies. Moreover, they’re highly competitive as hundreds of pilots apply in hopes of landing their first job.

Consequently, building a large network of contacts can make a huge difference.

If you come highly recommended by a company employee, your chances of landing a job become dramatically higher than the average applicant.

Consider a Pay to Fly Scheme

If all fails, you could pay your way to an airline career.

While many airlines came up with cadet programmes to help fresh pilots, other air carriers took advantage of their quandary.

Pay2Fly or hour-building schemes offer you the opportunity to accrue flight hours.

But you have to pay a hefty sum for those hours.

Many view such programmes as a detriment to the aviation industry, but what’s the alternative if your job search lingers for two or three years?

It’s worth noting that some Pay2Fly schemes are scams, so make sure to investigate thoroughly before making any payment.


Talal is a Jordanian airline transport pilot and aviation blogger with +2,400 flight hours logged flying in the Middle East, North Africa, and East Europe.

I hope you found this useful. Please leave a comment and feel free to request another topic for me to cover.

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