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The FAA requires 1500 hours as a pilot:

The rule requires first officers — also known as co-pilots — to hold an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate, requiring 1,500 hours total time as a pilot.

I am just interested in how can you get 1500 hours? This number is super huge unless you fly a trans-continental airliner. But you cannot fly an airliner without 1500 hours. Even having a private airplane, 1500 hours I assume will cost a lot - probably more than €500,000 in Europe. What is so specific about the USA? I fly gliders and a tug plane. I fly every weekend without exception and even sometimes after work. But I won't reach even 100 hours during the season. So to reach 1500 hours will take 20+ years. What about if you fly aerobatics...? Well of course there are some people who have these numbers but they are in their fifties and have spent all their lives in aviation! They don't even think about starting afresh in a first officer's career. So I am just curious how do young people log 1500 hours in the USA?

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    $\begingroup$ People were voting to close this question as 'unclear' so I added a link to what might be the FAA rule which you were asking about, and I changed the abbreviation "1500h" to "1500 hours", in case it was that that was unclear. $\endgroup$ – ChrisW Sep 7 '15 at 15:07
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisW Haha, good, otherwise the answer would be "they just wait until 3p.m.!" ;-) $\endgroup$ – Michael Sep 7 '15 at 19:29
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    $\begingroup$ Another way to get your hours is to fly military, for the USAF or USN. $\endgroup$ – Pieter Geerkens Sep 8 '15 at 1:15
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    $\begingroup$ @PieterGeerkens -- military flying in general would do the trick, since it's a total-time requirement -- you could satisfy it with time in an Army UH-60. $\endgroup$ – UnrecognizedFallingObject Sep 8 '15 at 17:58
  • $\begingroup$ @UnrecognizedFallingObject: Thank you; unintentional oversight to omit that possibility. $\endgroup$ – Pieter Geerkens Sep 8 '15 at 21:38
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1 word: Instruction.

I learned to fly in the US, and all but one of the 10-15 instructors at the school were young guys who had a Commercial license and were just building hours while doing their exams and applying to airlines.

This meant they were actually getting paid (not particularly well, I hasten to add!) to build hours, rather than spending money on an airplane, or rental.

They say you don't become a pilot for the money, you do it because you love it. Nothing could be closer to the truth IMO.

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    $\begingroup$ @Radu094 can you point to the 500 hrs multi-crew experience requirement? I'm not familiar with all the recent changes to the ATP requirements, but I can't seem to find that one in particular. $\endgroup$ – casey Sep 7 '15 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ This makes it sound like accumulating your hours is a pyramid scheme! $\endgroup$ – curiousdannii Sep 8 '15 at 7:56
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    $\begingroup$ Only if everyone's ultimate goal is ATP. It's not. Many people just fly for leisure. $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Sep 8 '15 at 8:10
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    $\begingroup$ Its 50 hours of multi-engine, not multi-crew (according to: faa.gov/news/press_releases/news_story.cfm?newsId=14838) $\endgroup$ – Jamiec Sep 8 '15 at 13:13
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    $\begingroup$ Hmm.. EASA's ATPL requires 500 h multi-crew. I somehow automatically misread the 500 cross-country as multi-crew. Strange that there is such a big difference in requirements between FAA ATP and EASA's ATPL $\endgroup$ – Radu094 Sep 8 '15 at 13:40
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I think the most common answer will be, instructing. You'll build hours much faster doing that, since it sounds like you're only getting about 100 hours / year now, which isn't much. Of course, the difference between a good instructor job and a bad one can be huge.

Other routes, which are not necessarily incompatible with instructing, would be things like traffic watch flying and banner tow.

At some point, most pilots probably start flying for somebody in a job that doesn't require ATP minimums -- night cargo, tour flying, etc. These jobs aren't entry level so they'll require some amount of experience, but not 1500 hours.

One pilot I know started doing right seat work at SimuFlight, filling the seat & reading the checklist for pilots who came in for the course without their own copilot. Eventually got an offer to start flying right seat for one of the pilots that came through for refresher training. That's hardly common, but one-off stuff like that is out there.

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  • $\begingroup$ Of course, the difference between a good instructor and a bad one can also be huge, and instructors who are doing it to build time rather than because they enjoy teaching can be bad ones. $\endgroup$ – Pete Becker Sep 7 '15 at 15:37
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    $\begingroup$ But instructing doesn't work mathematically. It's not sustainable. One instructor can easily teach 5 instructors from 0 experience while collecting 1500 hours. What will other 4 do? We get 4*4*4*4... number of low hour instructors will grow like geometrical progression... $\endgroup$ – Andrius Sep 7 '15 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ @Andrius You're assuming that the ones who are doing it for hours don't move on to other jobs (e.g. flying cargo or flying passengers) once they have enough hours. That's not a valid assumption. Also, teaching a single student from 0 hrs to CFI would be a lot of hours. Furthermore, most student pilots won't become CFIs, but will simply become private pilots who fly for fun (or else won't finish any pilot certificate at all, which is also quite common.) $\endgroup$ – reirab Sep 7 '15 at 20:01
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    $\begingroup$ No I assume that. 0 to CFI is about 230 hours. (1500 - 230(self))/230 = 5.5 You can take 0.5 for PPL as it's only 45h and losers. So we have 5. One is to replace after instructor leaves to airline 5-1 = 4. So 4 instructors nowhere to go. $\endgroup$ – Andrius Sep 7 '15 at 20:20
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    $\begingroup$ @Andrius But the majority of pilots in the U.S. aren't intending to become ATPs. That's my point. It's not 1 out of 5, but rather something more like 9 out of 10 that aren't seeking their ATP and won't become instructors. Also, lots of private pilots will get an instrument rating and/or get instruction received time for other purposes, such as type ratings, so it's not just 40 hrs per PPL student. Further, some will get a commercial license (which requires 500 hrs, IIRC,) but not ATP or CFI. $\endgroup$ – reirab Sep 7 '15 at 20:32
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Instructing is the most common route, however you can also fly as a commercial pilot in part 135 operations, which would be anything 30 seats or under charter, or 9 seats or less as a scheduled flight, and <= 7500 lbs payload. This link helps explain the differences. This would be small commuter airplanes, cargo, and air taxi operations. Also, experience does not have to come from US regulated air operations, you could go elsewhere in the world where the 1500 hour rule does not apply and get experience as a first officer and it should still count.

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    $\begingroup$ Note, that in USA there is a large pool of private pilots and therefore also competition for the pilot jobs. In Asia (both Middle East, India and Far East) airlines are growing, but there is almost no pool of private pilots there, so getting an entry level F/O job there might indeed be easier. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Sep 9 '15 at 6:00

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