How to build your flying hours

Qualifying as a Commercial Pilot is one of the most exciting times in your career. You are full of enthusiasm, knowledge and ready to start your first Pilot job. As well as exciting it can be difficult. Competing for pilot jobs against lots of other newly qualified Pilots, all with similar low hour experience can be time-consuming, full of rejection and draining.

So, with competition high amongst new Pilots to land their first role, here are some things to consider to help build your flying hours: 

You don’t have to pay to fly

If you are currently spending a small fortune trying to build your hours, then stop for a moment. There are flying opportunities out in the market that will consider you as a newly qualified Pilot, with the added bonus of being paid to fly.

What sort of paid flying opportunities are out there?

There are several flying jobs you can consider. Airlines will automatically favour Pilots who have spent time building up their hours and gaining experience. Therefore if you are a new Pilot you should consider gaining experience in;

Ferry flying – Delivering aircraft to customers or moving aircraft to new locations, ferry flying involves a lot of flying skills. This is due to having to quickly learn how to fly different types of aircraft based on the customer’s specifications. Nonetheless, this is a good way for Pilots to expand their practical skills and increase those desired flying hours very quickly.

Glider towing – Flying as a glider tow Pilot will give you a lot of hands-on flying experience, including improving your stick and rudder skills. To tow a glider you must be able to fly your own aircraft and use skills which require the understanding of the glider itself.

Banner towing – For Pilots who are just starting out, banner towing is one of the ways to land your first Pilot job. It might not be the job you dreamed of when first applied for your commercial license but it is a good way to accumulate flying hours. Additionally, because banner towing requires a lot of skills, Pilots will improve both their flying skills and confidence levels.

Scenic flights – Although this is harder to gain experience in, scenic flight tours are a great option for new Pilots to build up flying hours. Not only will you be gaining great experience but you will fly through some of the most amazing destinations the world has to offer. So, if you want to travel, gain experience and boost your flying hours this will be the Pilot job for you.

Parachute Operations or Fly Sky Divers –  This is a very popular option for Pilots looking to gain experience. However, this is a demanding role and being a Parachute/Sky Diver Pilot requires a lot of skill and the ability to multi-task. In this role, it is crucial for Pilots to ensure the safety of the plane but also the instructors and skydivers they are carrying.

These are all jobs that don’t require a huge amount of hours, they will allow you to develop your hours, gain work experience with the added bonus of being paid to fly.

How do you secure these paid flying jobs?

Landing a job in any of these fields will take time and dedication. The volume of Pilots applying to positions greatly outweighs the number of positions that are readily available. Additionally, we would advise Pilots to contact and physically visit the local flight schools they have done training with and enquire into the positions they have available. This is a great way to gain more experience and build up extra flying hours.

Keep in mind that when you are applying to these positions you will need to demonstrate commitment and that you want to gain experience. For many of the smaller flying schools, it can be a big deal to take on new staff, so you need to be fully committed.

Land your first Pilot job by completing a Flight Instructor course

A Flight Instructors course is a great route to gaining experience in flying, however, this can take time before you receive the certification. For example, if you decided to take this course part-time it would likely take you over a year. There is also a cost you will need to factor in, which is approximately £10,000 at the time of writing*.

Before taking a Flight Instructor Course, Pilots need to complete a pre-entry flight test and meet various flying requirements.

Once you complete your Flight Instructor Course you can be a basic PPL Instructor, right through to an advanced Instructor teaching MEP IR. It is also worth noting that salaries for these positions have increased significantly in recent years and this can be a fantastic way to build up your hours.

A lot of Pilots are Instructors before they join the airlines and by taking this route Pilots will improve their flying skills, which will help greatly in future assessments.

Avoid non-flying jobs

One sure way to impress airline employers is to show your dedication to flying. Doing a part-time job whilst paying to fly isn’t always the best way to do it.

By gaining employment in a flying role you are showing your dedication, enthusiasm and professionalism to one day becoming an airline Pilot.

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