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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to Build Flight Hours

Of all the aviation challenges we're faced with today, one of the greatest is how new pilots will build their flight hours.

Times have changed and aviation jobs have shifted. No longer are banks flying checks, fewer people are taking flight lessons, and with technology and teleconferencing the corporate world is spending more time at home on their computers. With the sinking of any economy, the corporate luxury items go first... yes, the aviation department.

Today I am dedicating this blog to helping our new pilots.  Please help them with ideas on how to build those golden hours.


  • I ferried aircraft for Renton Aviation from the Cessna factory in Wichita back to Seattle. flying. They bought me a ticket there, and the gas to bring the plane back.

  • I helped instrument students, who owned their own planes, work on their training. Yes... I was a CFII but I did not charge them to fly... I just donated my time, put them under the hood and flew approaches with them so I too could log hours. 

  • I hung out at the airport and asked people where they were going and if they needed a support pilot. 

  • I began a business... "Champagne Tours" ... providing romantic sightseeing flights around Seattle. Piper Aztec, middle seat removed, leg room and privacy. Yes...champagne was served.

  • When attending college at Central, I found other pilots to share gas so we could fly over and back. 

With 700 hours of flight time, my daughters were 2, 3 and 4, and I was working on my Flight Engineer ticket. Late at night after the babies were asleep, I would return to the training center to study. One night Evergreen was training and I asked if I could observe. They allowed me to, and this continued for three days.

Day four their flight engineer no showed. So I volunteered to work the panel. I could read the checklist and knew how they ran their procedures. This particular night happened to be a checking event for their Chief Pilot.

Three months later, Evergreen contacted the training center to see if I had received my FE ticket. Someone dropped out of class last minute and they needed to fill the spot. Their biggest problem with hiring, was finding pilots who could pass training due to a very 'nuts and bolts' ground school.

They sent a check pilot to give me an evaluation, and see if I was 'trainable.' Prior to this event, Bo Corby, flew with me in his 727 simulator and taught me how to fly a jet.  I still hear his words of wisdom, and they have carried me through many check rides.

Evergreen offered me a job as a 727 First Officer. This was 3 years prior to my plan... but my supportive husband said, "honey, you've got to do it!" A scary thing for a low time pilot and mother with three little ones at home. 

Question of the day: Does opportunity knock, or do you have to find the door and do the knocking?

Please show your support for our new pilots and help them find the answer to the toughest question: How do I build flight hours?

More on How To Build Flight Hours can be found HERE.


  1. Thanx for all your tips! I´m obviously in the rank of new pilot, although (thanks god) we do get lot of time in the air. We work 12 days for 7 days of rest, though not all the 12 days we are up in the air, we do a lot of guard shifts, just sitting in the airport waiting to be called...actually I just finished my 12 day shift, and last night my wife and kid, catch up with me at MEX, and I flew them to Cancun (last destination of my shift) and we are staying here 7 days, next wednesday I will fly them back to MEX, and then they will continue to our home in Cuernavaca (about 50 min drive from mex. I´ll stay working :( Greetings!

  2. awesome story! In canada you need an OC to do sightseeing flights. i'd love to buy a waco and give open cockpit biplane tours around the lakes up here. i think theres a huge market for it...

    instructing, working the ramp, flying on floats... those are the only things i can think of.... if you have any ideas let me know! because i too am looking to build more time. ive got about 650 hrs now. getting ready to write my ATPL, but i need 750

  3. The least expensive way I have found to build hours is to fly as a safety pilot for some one working on their instrument rating. You don't have to be a flight instructor. A properly certificated private pilot can be a safety pilot. When I was working on my instrument rating I traded the safety pilot roles with other instrument students. It helped me to save a good amount of money.

  4. Hi Rudy, hang in there! It's very tough with a family and the hours you must put in with the job... but it will all be worth it in the long run. And you're an inspiration to your children too! Fly safe!

  5. Julian, you need to read all about Rich tomorrow on the Friday Flyer. Take a risk and create a business plan, and someone will invest in your idea for the biplane tours. I think it's a wonderful idea! Keep checking back, hopefully we'll get more great ideas!

  6. Rich, a safety pilot is an excellent idea. I happened to have an instructor's rating, but basically that's what I did too. Love your bio for tomorrow... you are an inspiration! Your story could be a movie!

  7. I am a Canadian 240+low time pilot seeking employment

    Got my CPL/ME/IR over a year ago in Canada

    My options are flight instructor rating then write the IATRA exam then knock on doors till someone gives me a break

    I need to build hours, any advice? Osagie

    I really could use a veterans advice

    1. Osagie, I hope the above can help. There really isn't another way unless you have a friend with a plane. The point is, you need to fly. What if you had a job and spent your paycheck one hour a week to fly. You find someone who wants to go with you to defer the costs. At the end of the year you would have 52 hours. The end of 10 years, you would have 5200 hours. You would be hired. I suspect you would get hired at 2500 hours in five years because of the pilot shortage. Just a thought.
      Best of luck to you!!

    2. Karlene your thought is a plan, much more better than most plans i have heard. Spend my paycheck to fly an hour a week will be 52 hours for a year and two hours per week for a year will be 104hrs for the first year while i work on my FI rating.Then when i get an instructors rating and can fly 10hours a week that will give me 520 hours in a year and 5200 or 5304 hours in 10 years.I still have to knock on doors while i do this which will eventually bridge the gap and give me a job in 5 years or more.Its not just a thought but a realistic goal as of today. My sincere gratitude goes out to you as this has been the most inspirational advice i have received.I will keep in touch!

  8. Definitely you will have to find the door and knock, especially nowadays in the industry. Opportunity will be just on the other side waiting for you. Just fight for it and win!

  9. Karlene,
    I saw your post on Linkedin and I wanted some advice from you. I am 25 years old – very accomplished and successful in the corporate world. I currently hold a private pilot (instrument rated) and I am training for the commercial ticket. I came to the realization at the end of 2012 that flying is really what I want to do. I know that there is the issue of “money” that everyone talks about but instead of ignoring it I am in the process of starting something small to supplement my income for when I do decide to pull the plug on my corporate career and focus solely on flying. Here is my plan:

    -I train for the commercial certificate over the weekend and at the same time I am starting (this weekend) to take CFI ground lessons. When I finish the commercial checkride, I will almost be ready for the CFI checkride plus the lesson plans will be complete.
    - I also think that the CFI training will help me tremendously in the Commercial checkride.
    - After the commercial certificate has been obtained, I plan to offer my services to flight schools that do Groupon flights – free of charge.
    - I have started flying with every Instrument pilot I know of. I split costs with them sometimes and build time if the weather isn’t too rough (based in NYC).

    In my estimation I’ll only have 350 hours by the time I become a CFI. Is there any other way you recommend for me to build time. After instructing I was hoping to work for a company like Airnet or head over to Africa/Asia as a CFI and work for tour companies and build time. HELP


    1. Hi Nyasha, I am headed to Tokyo now. Can you leave this comment on today's post? Go back to the original post... and leave another comment there. I will answer after I land and nap. (About 20 hrs.) But... if you post today, there might be other people who can help in the mean time. You can do it. Don't give up!

  10. Hi I am anup I need some information about building flight hours after my training plz email me to

    1. Everyone please help Anup... we need ideas. Actually Anup type in more about this in the search box and you might find more! Good luck to you!


Thank you for your comment! If your comment doesn't appear immediately, it will after I land. Enjoy the journey!