Building flight time is one of the major challenges you’ll face during your pilot’s career. In this article, I’ll cover some of the top ways to build your flight experience.
In particular, there are a few types of flight times that you need to build, depending on your goals:
- Total flight time
- Pilot-in-command flight time
- Multi-engine flight time, and
- Instrument flight time
- Cross country flight time.
- It seems to never stop as later in your career you’ll need turbine time or 121 PIC time to get to your next job.
You already know that flying is very expensive, so it can be a challenge for most people to build the experience required for their next pilot certificate or the next level of their flying career. Although you can’t completely eliminate the cost involved in getting this experience, you can significantly reduce it.
- Sharing the rental cost with another pilot is a good way to save money while building flight time. The Federal Aviation Regulations allow you, in certain conditions, to have two pilots logging pilot-in command at the same time. I’ll get to when and how to do it legally, in a future article.
- Volunteering in non-profit organizations is a great way to build flight hours while contributing something back to society. One of those organizations is the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the official civilian auxiliary of the US Air Force. It operates a fleet of small aircraft flying search-and-rescue missions and conducts orientation and aerospace education flights for its 12- to 18-year-old cadets. You can operate some of these flights with a minimum of a private pilot license.
- There’s a saying that teaching is the best form of learning, so becoming a Certified Flight Instructor is one of the best ways to building both your flight time and your knowledge. As a CFI, you build your experience while helping others learn how to fly, and you even get paid for it. Just please, be sure to do your best when teaching someone else something you only recently learned yourself.
- Although they are hard to find when the pilot job market is bad, low-time pilot jobs still exist. You can usually find these types of jobs by word of mouth or by locating and contacting operators for whom you’d want to work. Such operations include: part 135, scenic flights, aerial photography, tow-banner, glider towing, pipeline patrol and others.
- If you have some money to spend, you may want to buy your own or share an airplane. A plain-old Cessna 152 can run for as low as $15,000 and it’s just as good as any brand new airplane for building your flight experience. Two of the leading websites that let you buy and sell airplanes are www.controller.com and www.trade-a-plane.com.
- Here’s a secret: Many flight schools don’t even own their own airplanes.
Instead, they back-lease aircraft from private owners, who get a share of the operation profit. If you’d like to own a relatively new airplane and potentially make some money at the same time, you might want to look into a back-lease program with a local flight school. Be careful to thoroughly go through the details of the contract before going for this option.
There it is, six ways to build your flight time. Whether your goal is reaching the minimums for your next pilot rating or becoming more marketable to the airlines, there are ways to reach your goal. If you have any more ideas on building flight time, want to share your own experience or have any comments, please leave them below.