I'm wondering about the possible lack of real-world flying experience by pilots in non-US carriers

In the US, aspiring airline pilots can work at a variety of jobs, like instructing, towing banners, crop dusting, etc, or part 135, to build time towards the 1250 hours now necessary for a restricted ATP to act as Second In Command (SIC) in carrier operations.

How do non-US pilots who don't have a military aviation background build the hours necessary to obtain an air carrier license in their own country? Are they all ex-military? Do they only need an ICAO-compliant commercial license and not an Air Transport Pilot License (ATPL)? Do we have 250- or 500-hour commercial pilots flying SIC into JFK? Do these pilots have experience flying non-pushbutton aircraft?

Not sure if this is credible, but, as an example, there are fewer than 30 non-air carrier turboprops (Caravans, twin Cessnas, twin Beeches, and a lone Cheyenne) registered in Malaysia, and 10 are registered to the air force. The same site says Jordan has 7, 6 of them in the air force. Where are the national air carrier pilots getting their twin time? SIC in domestic carrier ATRs and Dash-8s?

  • $\begingroup$ probably an equivalence certificate from the agency of their home country $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 19:38
  • $\begingroup$ @CGCampbell i clarified the question $\endgroup$
    – rbp
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 20:17
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    $\begingroup$ Are those jobs to build hours not available in other countries? $\endgroup$
    – cpast
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 23:51
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    $\begingroup$ Because crop dusting, banner towing, instructing are unique to the U.S.? And that isn't even close to an exhaustive list of potential employment. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 0:48
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    $\begingroup$ Please bear in mind that not everyone lives in the USA. "Foreign" doesn't mean "outside the USA" to all of us. Indeed, the US is foreign to 95% of people on the planet (though presumably not to 95% of readers here). $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 10:10

2 Answers 2


Under the rules of ICAO Annex 1, Personnel Licensing, you don't need an ATP License to fly as second in command (SIC) on a commercial aircraft required to be operated with a co-pilot. A commercial pilot license (CPL) is sufficient to be SIC on an aircraft that requires to be operated by more than a single pilot.

And since 2006 ICAO have defined a Multi Crew Pilot License that also allows a pilot to be second in command on a commercial air transportation multi-crew aeroplane.

The ICAO website about Multi-Crew Pilot Licence (MPL):

The MPL allows a pilot to exercise the privileges of a co-pilot in a commercial air transportation on multi-crew aeroplanes. It provides the aviation community with an opportunity to train pilots directly for co-pilot duties. It is a new licence that has been introduced in addition to the existing pilot licences defined in Annex 1 — Personnel Licensing.

The licence focuses on ab initio airline pilot training. MPL training and assessment will be competency-based and involve a multi-crew environment and threat and error management from the onset. It provides for greater use of flight simulation training devices and include mandatory upset training. At this stage, only aeroplanes are considered for this new licence. The details of the requirements for the licence are contained in Annex 1 — Personnel Licensing and in the Procedures for Air Navigation Services — Training (PANS-TRG). These documents outline the minimum international Standard for the implementation of the MPL by any State; they can be purchased directly from ICAO through the Document Sales Unit.

In Annex 1, the requirements are laid down for the MPL. One of the requirements says:

Experience The applicant shall have completed in an approved training course not less than 240 hours as pilot flying and pilot not flying of actual and simulated flight.

The MPL, combined with a type rating, will get you to the right hand seat of the aircraft of choice.

So it's likely there are 250-to-500-hours commercial pilots flying Second In Command (SIC) into JFK. With experience in Beech Bonanza's, Cheyenne/Seminole, maybe CitationJet, a lot of simulator time and a couple of hours in a B777.

To answer your title question, in many countries pilots get their ATPL after building hours as SIC flying with a CPL or MPL within an airline training scheme.

  • $\begingroup$ Would a 250 or 500-hour pilot be able to get an ETOPS rating? At any rate, those requirements seem concerningly low. You can't fly a crop duster or a banner with 240 hours in the U.S., let alone an airliner. Also, would the FAA allow such a pilot to fly into U.S. airspace in an airliner? Don't you have to get your license endorsed by any countries in which you're flying? How does that work where no such license exists, as in the case of the U.S.? $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 17:09
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab that would make a good follow up question. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Jan 2, 2015 at 21:25
  • $\begingroup$ Wouldn't newly minted MPLs be more likely to go into line domestic flying than international due to seniority, anyway? Or are there airlines where this doesn't hold? $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 3, 2015 at 23:44
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    $\begingroup$ @UnrecognizedFallingObject Domestic in countries with fewer airports than fingers on one hand..? $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 10:13
  • $\begingroup$ @DeltaLima I agree that it would make a good separate question. I'll probably go ahead and post it as such. The reason I mentioned it here rather than doing so initially, though, is that its answer is necessary in answering the Do we have 250- or 500-hour commercial pilots flying SIC into JFK? part of this question (well, unless the answer to that were already 'no' for another reason, in which case it would be moot.) $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 19:29

Well it's much harder to get inside a cockpit without such opportunities. In Europe, we have some carriers (for example Lufthansa or SWISS) who offer ab initio programs. You can also make an ATPL at a flight school but chances to get a job afterwards are almost zero. Some carriers have job offers for "Ready Entries" with frozen ATPLs and without Type Rating but that's a minority.

In most cases to become a pilot you need to get one of the rare ab initio places. All in all I thing it's harder to become a pilot in the EU than in the US.


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