Top 6 Ways To Building Your Flight Time

3 min read

Building flight time is one of the significant challenges you'll face at the beginning of your pilot career.

This article will explore some of the most effective 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
  • Instrument flight time
  • Cross-country flight time

It seems to never stop, as you'll need turbine time or 121 PIC time later in your career to get to your next job.

Flying is expensive, making it a challenge for many people to build the experience required for their next pilot certificate or for kick-starting their careers.

Although you can't eliminate the cost, you can significantly reduce it.Here are a few ways to build flight time in a cost-effective way:

1. Sharing Rental Costs When Flying with a Safety Pilot (or as a safety pilot)

One strategic and cost-effective way to accumulate flight time is to share costs with another pilot acting as a required safety pilot. When a pilot practices instrument flight under hood or foggles, simulating instrument meteorological conditions (IMC), FAR 91.109 requires a safety pilot on board.

The safety pilot's role is to observe for traffic and other risks in visual meteorological conditions (VMC) while the practicing pilot flies solely by reference to the cockpit instruments.

The FAA allows both the safety pilot and the pilot flying in simulated instrument conditions to log PIC time. The flying pilot may log PIC time as the sole manipulator of the controls, while the safety pilot may simultaneously log PIC as the "acting" PIC.

An important thing to remember is that the safety pilot cannot log the visual parts of the flight (such as takeoff and landing) since he is only a legally required pilot (by 91.109) during the time the other pilot is "under the hood."

For both legality and safety, both pilots must agree beforehand on who is the acting PIC of the flight.

Safety Pilot Requirements

  • A private pilot with category and class ratings appropriate to the aircraft flown.
  • The safety pilot must have adequate vision forward and to each side of the aircraft, or a competent observer to adequately supplement the safety pilot's vision.
  • The aircraft must be equipped with dual controls. A throwover control wheel may be used in a single-engine aircraft if the safety pilot determines that the flight can be conducted safely and the person manipulating the controls has at least a private pilot license with the appropriate category and class ratings. (see 91.109(c)).

Since the safety pilot is exercising private pilot privileges, they must also have a current FAA medical certificate.

2. Volunteering

Contributing to non-profit organizations like the Civil Air Patrol (CAP), the official civilian auxiliary of the US Air Force, is a great way to build flight hours while giving back to the community.

CAP operates a fleet of small aircraft for 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.

3. Becoming a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI)

As the saying goes, "teaching is the best form of learning," so becoming a CFI is an excellent way to build your flight time and knowledge. You can gain experience and get paid while helping others learn how to fly.

4. Low-time Pilot Jobs

As a commercial pilot, you can start building time with entry-level pilot jobs. Examples of such jobs include sightseeing flights for authorized Air Tour operators, banner towing, pipeline patrols, imaging and mapping companies, and more.

Although challenging to find when the pilot job market is unfavorable, low-time pilot jobs still exist. You can usually find these jobs through word of mouth or by locating and contacting operators you'd like to work for.

5. Buying or Sharing an Airplane

Although not usually the cheapest option on this list, airplane ownership may be more affordable than you think.

A plain-old Cessna 152 can run for as low as $15,000 and is just as good as any brand-new airplane for building flight time. Here is some information from AOPA about airplane ownership: Aircraft & ownership.

Two of the leading websites to buy and sell airplanes are Controller and Trade-a-Plane.

6. Back-lease Program with a Local Flight School

Many flight schools don't own their airplanes. Instead, they back-lease aircraft from private owners, who get a share of the operating profit. If you'd like to own a relatively new airplane and possibly (although not always likely) earn some money, consider a back-lease program with a local flight school. Make sure to thoroughly review the details of the contract before opting for such solution.

With these strategies, whether your goal is reaching the minimums for your next pilot rating or becoming more marketable to the airlines, there are ways to achieve your goal.

Last Updated:

This post may contain affiliate links or advertisements. This means I earn a small commision if you decide to make a purchase through the links at no extra cost to you.