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Out of curiosity (I am not a pilot, but do enjoy watching this aviation forum).

Question: What are the continued education requirements for commercial / airline pilots?

  • Per FAA rules (if that exists)
  • If you are a commercial pilot, do you spend more time than mandated learning?
  • What percentage would you estimate is spent in simulators vs textbook / classroom (if applicable)?
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  • $\begingroup$ @JonathanWalters: I clarified the question. That is complex! Could you give a rough idea for a caption, on a middle of the road airline, flying a jet? $\endgroup$ – Joseph at SwiftOtter Oct 27 '16 at 22:42
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This question is difficult to answer comprehensively as the continuing education requirements are complex and varied. The complexity is because the continuing education requirements are mandated by multiple parties (the FAA, insurance companies, clients, and employers) and depend on the regulations the flight is conducted under (14 CFR 91, 121, 135, 137, etc.), the type of aircraft operated (single engine, multi-engine, turboprop, jet), and the pilot's role in the operation (PIC, SIC).

Note that both the Commercial and Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) license are good for life, unless revoked or surrendered. Any continuing education requirements are to retain the employment or the privileges of exercising the license, unlike CE requirements for licenses in some industries.

In very broad brush strokes, most professional pilots will be required to complete a flight proficiency check, either in an actual aircraft, or in a simulator, every 6 to 12 months. The amount of time will vary for such checks, but 3 hours might be typical. This proficiency check will be accompanied, in some cases, with a written or oral examination. In addition to this, insurance may require an aircraft systems class and simulator brush up session every 12-24 months. Such training is usually accomplished in 3-6 days, including roughly 12-24 hours of lecture/bookwork, and 6-10 hours of simulator time.

In addition to the flight and systems training, pilots employed by air carriers will generally be required to receive instruction on operational aspects of their operation, including such topics as RVSM, hazardous materials, weather, physiology, as well as many others. Such training is often self-paced, computer based training (CBT). I would estimate the time commitment for this training to be 20-40 hours annually.

In addition to the required training and testing, many pilots choose to spend additional time studying aviation related topics. Such topics may include all those alluded to above, as well as other topics. Examples of such study would be changes to company operational procedures, brushing up on checklist memorization, FAA advisory publications, and areas of interest outside of normal operations, such as international operations. Speaking personally, I probably spend roughly 10 hours a week in what could be considered aviation related study or learning. I also often see other pilots at my company studying various aircraft or operational manuals, and our company keeps a collection of articles, FAA advisories, and other publications related to our operation with the intent that pilots voluntarily study these materials as they have time. Bear in mind that a pilot's life often involves a great deal of waiting, a task which often lends itself to reading and study.

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    $\begingroup$ Excellent answer. Thank you, Jonathan. $\endgroup$ – Joseph at SwiftOtter Oct 28 '16 at 12:33
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14 CFR 61.56 - Flight review deals with continued education of pilots. According to it,

(c) Except as provided in paragraphs (d), (e), and (g) of this section, no person may act as pilot in command of an aircraft unless, since the beginning of the 24th calendar month before the month in which that pilot acts as pilot in command, that person has -

(1) Accomplished a flight review given in an aircraft for which that pilot is rated by an authorized instructor and

(2) A logbook endorsed from an authorized instructor who gave the review certifying that the person has satisfactorily completed the review.

where,

a flight review consists of a minimum of 1 hour of flight training and 1 hour of ground training.

The pilot may use a simulator for this purpose provided it meets certain conditions:

(i) A flight simulator or flight training device may be used to meet the flight review requirements of this section subject to the following conditions:

(1) The flight simulator or flight training device must be used in accordance with an approved course conducted by a training center certificated under part 142 of this chapter.

(2) Unless the flight review is undertaken in a flight simulator that is approved for landings, the applicant must meet the takeoff and landing requirements of § 61.57(a) or § 61.57(b) of this part.

(3) The flight simulator or flight training device used must represent an aircraft or set of aircraft for which the pilot is rated.

FAA 14 CFR 61.58 - Pilot-in-command proficiency check deals with continued education for operation of an aircraft that requires more than one pilot flight crew member.

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  • $\begingroup$ Downvote because most commercial and airline pilots, excepting those who fly under part 91, are exempt from the requirements for a flight review. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Oct 27 '16 at 22:06
  • $\begingroup$ Let me detail my statement: All part 135 and 121 pilots are required to pass a proficiency check either every 6 or 12 months. This exempts them from the requirement of a flight review. See § 61.56 (d)(1). The flight review requirements of § 61.56 generally only apply to commercial pilots who fly under part 91 or 137 and do not fly multi-crew aircraft or jets. $\endgroup$ – J Walters Oct 27 '16 at 23:06

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