The "captain in the right-hand seat" discussion got me thinking. As of 2013, you need an ATPL to operate any plane operating under Part 121 (as part of an "airline"). Both Captain and FO need this level of license, and new Captains require at least 1000 hours as FO.

However, all you'd need to fly the same model of plane for hire in any other situation is a CPL and the applicable type rating for the aircraft. Prior to 2013 that was all you needed to be hired as an FO on an airliner and get yoke time towards your ATPL and the left-hand seat.

The question is, are there still opportunities for a civilian CPL holder to fly large turbofan-powered airframes for a living on his way to an ATPL? My first thought was freight, but cargo planes for FedEx or UPS operate under Part 121, same as American Airlines. The only thing that really leaves is charter flights, which operate under Part 135 and thus may not require the same stricter regs as a pilot on a scheduled service. But, I don't know how many charter operations are using anything bigger than a narrow-body.

  • $\begingroup$ Are you sure you need an ATPL to operate Part 121? I thought requirements for FO was 1500 total $\endgroup$ – Radu094 Jul 18 '15 at 11:28
  • $\begingroup$ @Radu094 pretty sure; the 1500 hour requirement is for the ATPL. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Jul 18 '15 at 17:07

You don't have to be an ATP to fly an airliner. In fact, you can fly an airliner as a private pilot. John Travolta is the best example I can think of... He has a house right by a private airport and flies his own personal Boeing 707 (with Qantas livery) and another jet aircraft (Gulfstream I think). With any large aircraft like this over 12500 lbs or with turbojet engine(s), a pilot does need a type specific rating to fly such an aircraft as well as needing to be "current" in that type, but may do so as long as current at any certificate "level" of private pilot or above. However, to fly an airliner as a scheduled air carrier pilot, then yes, an ATP is required as this type of flight would not fall under part 91 or part 135 of the FARs, but instead part 121 which requires that all pilots have ATP certificates.

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    $\begingroup$ So I guess to follow up, you pretty much have to be independently wealthy to do such a thing as you're talking about. The only exception I can think of is a fire fighting tanker or something like that. $\endgroup$ – Pugz Jul 19 '15 at 6:39
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    $\begingroup$ one of my personal aviation sayings is "I would absolutely love to have a jet to fly... as long as someone else is paying the fuel bills." $\endgroup$ – voretaq7 Jul 19 '15 at 7:19
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, this is a good answer but I was thinking more along the lines of someone who wants to fly planes for a living, not someone with enough money to fly their own personal Boeing airliners as a hobby. $\endgroup$ – KeithS Jul 20 '15 at 14:51
  • $\begingroup$ Like I said, the only thing I can even think of would be a tanker for fire fighting. That or join the armed forces. :-) $\endgroup$ – Pugz Jul 21 '15 at 0:17
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    $\begingroup$ @pericynthion they're very relevant... planes are only separated by 1000 ft vertically and it is imperative that altitude is held within tight tolerances because the higher you get the more prone to error altimeters are. A pilot must be as or more capable than the autopilot of controlling the airplane by hand should automation fail. That said, if you buy a turboprop or jet, nothing is stopping you as a private pilot from going there if you're appropriately rated and the plane is legal for the operation. You also need an RVSM operational approval as I understand it... forgot to mention that one $\endgroup$ – Pugz Sep 28 '16 at 13:00

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