I know that training flying time on large commercial aircraft is awfully expensive but I'm just curious how much training time a typical scheduled passenger airline pilot gets on the real craft these days? In particular I'm motivated by investigation reports that reveal that current simulators may have flaws and shortcomings in realistically simulating some parts of the flight envelope.

I'm sure this varies a lot by pilot, airline etc. so I'm not at all looking for an exact answer, just a approximate figure.

e.g. Say, I'm flying on a A-320 or a B-787 commanded by a newly type-certified first-officer, what could be the bare minimum actual flight time (not simulator time) on an A-320 / B-787 that he could have had?

PS. What is the type-rating process? Does that have no need for flight time? Can you get Type rated with 100% sim time on type?

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    $\begingroup$ Wish I had an exact answer, but for the official type rating on a pilots certificate, it's most of the time, done with 100% sim time. To be allowed to operate in the airline, there then is an IOE(Initial Operating Experience) with various training personal, but on actual flights. I don't know the actual numbers breakdown, and of course it depends on airline and pilot too. $\endgroup$
    – slookabill
    Jul 18, 2015 at 16:20

1 Answer 1


Zero hours in type.

The first time a new FO flies the actual airplane could be their first revenue flight with a training captain in the left seat. Technically, these flights are still considered training, specifically "initial operating experience" (IOE) and a few trips will be flown with training captains before the new FO is released to fly with regular line captains. IOE is conducted on revenue flights though, so its entirely possible that the before your flight leaves the gate that the FO has exactly 0 hours in type.

The initial training (leading to either a full type or an SIC type) and the upgrade training (full type ride if you only had an SIC type) are 100% in FTD and level D FFS (full flight simulators) and the checkride is in the FFS.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. So at any point between the CPL and the ATPL is there a requirement for actual (non-sim) flight time on these large aircraft. I know large aircraft is a fuzzy term but what I mean to ask is can a new FO be flying a revenue flight with zero actual flight training hours not just on that Type but pretty much zero hours on any of these large passenger aircraft used by scheduled airlines? $\endgroup$ Jul 18, 2015 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @curious_cat Yes, if the FO has no previous airline experience he is still the same as all other new FOs and gets the exact same training. These days the minimums for FOs is higher, but back in the mid 2000's you could have someone go from flying a piper seminole with 500 hours into the right seat of a regional jet and his very first hour of actual jet time would be a revenue flight with passengers. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Jul 18, 2015 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @curious_cat I have no numbers, but I'd guess just about never. All the training can be conducted in simulators and there is no real reason to take an airplane offline to train in. If they did, those flights would be operated under part 91. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Jul 18, 2015 at 19:05
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    $\begingroup$ I have heard this answer many times before. And yet, I have seem BA conducting A380 training flights in South Africa (Durban I believe). I've also seen Ryanair 737s performing circuits. What are these for? $\endgroup$
    – Ben
    Jul 19, 2015 at 5:23
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    $\begingroup$ might want to add that not all pilots qualify for ZFT training. I don't have any numbers but I'd venture a guess and say the majority >50% do not. In this case (in EASA) at least 6 takeoffs and landings are required in actual airplane as part of training (say 1 h actual aircraft) $\endgroup$
    – Radu094
    Jul 6, 2016 at 13:19

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