FAR 61.129 states that "for a commercial pilot certificate with an airplane category and single-engine class rating must log at least 250 hours of flight time as a pilot that consists of at least:

  (1) 100 hours in powered aircraft, of which 50 hours must be in airplanes.

  (2) 100 hours of pilot-in-command flight time, which includes at least—

      (i) 50 hours in airplanes; and

      (ii) 50 hours in cross-country flight of which at least 10 hours must be in airplanes.

  (3) 20 hours of training on the areas of operation listed in §61.127(b)(1) of this part that includes at least—


What counts towards the 250 hours of flight time as a pilot? Planes? Helicopters? Gliders? Hangliders? Paragliders? Paramotors? Wingsuits? Hot air balloons? Lawn chairs with helium balloons attached to them?

I would think that the skills from flying balloons is not very transferable to planes, so what are people's views on half your hours being from "flying" a balloon, or something similar? E.g. What do pilot examiners, employers, insurance agents, think?


2 Answers 2


The regulations on what can be logged for flight time are under 61.51.

Sec. 61.51

Pilot logbooks.

(j) Aircraft requirements for logging flight time. For a person to log flight time, the time must be acquired in an aircraft that is identified as an aircraft under Sec. 61.5(b), and is--
  (1) An aircraft of U.S. registry with either a standard or special airworthiness certificate;
  (2) An aircraft of foreign registry with an airworthiness certificate that is approved by the aviation authority of a foreign country that is a Member State to the Convention on International Civil Aviation Organization;
  (3) A military aircraft under the direct operational control of the U.S. Armed Forces; or
  (4) A public aircraft under the direct operational control of a Federal, State, county, or municipal law enforcement agency, if the flight time was acquired by the pilot while engaged on an official law enforcement flight for a Federal, State, County, or Municipal law enforcement agency.

The list of what qualifies as an aircraft is in section 61.5

Sec. 61.5

Certificates and ratings issued under this part.

(b) The following ratings are placed on a pilot certificate (other than student pilot) when an applicant satisfactorily accomplishes the training and certification requirements for the rating sought:

(1) Aircraft category ratings--

(i) Airplane.
(ii) Rotorcraft.
(iii) Glider.
(iv) Lighter-than-air.
(v) Powered-lift.
(vi) Powered parachute.
(vii) Weight-shift-control aircraft.

(2) Airplane class ratings--

(i) Single-engine land.
(ii) Multiengine land.
(iii) Single-engine sea.
(iv) Multiengine sea.

The following sections indicate what are included under the other categories.

So, piloting a hot air balloon counts toward the flying hours, as long as you're rated for it, but not the airplane hours. Since ultralights don't have an airworthiness certificate they don't fit under 61.51 (j)(1). Therefore no logging hours in those.

That's the FAA's requirements. Employers and insurance companies can have additional requirements. An example of this is that to qualify under the "open pilot" clause of someone's insurance policy (if they have one) it's pretty common for insurers to require a pilot to have 500 hours of PIC time, 10 of which have to be in the specific model. Depending on the contract, "model" can mean, for example, that time logged in a Cessna 172R doesn't count for the 10 hours required in a 172S.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "So, piloting a hot air balloon or an ultralight counts toward the flying hours" - You can't log flight time in an ultralight, because 61.51(j) requires the aircraft to have "either a standard or special airworthiness certificate", and ultralights cannot have airworthiness certificates. (That's assuming that the ultralight isn't a foreign, military or public aircraft.) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 0:53
  • $\begingroup$ @TannerSwett You are correct. I hadn't thought of that. I'll have to edit. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Commented Aug 3, 2018 at 1:08
  • $\begingroup$ @TannerSwett And if the ultralight is foreign-registered, located in the foreign country, and has a true airworthiness certificate (from the foreign aviation authority) and is described as an "ultralight" on that certificate, then can you log hours in it (for the purposes of obtaining an FAA rating under part 61?) What if the foreign-registered and foreign-domiciled aircraft is too heavy, too fast and carries too much fuel to be considered by the FAA to be an ultralight, but it says "ultralight" on the true airworthiness certificate anyway? Then can you log hours in it (for the purposes of obt $\endgroup$ Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 6:57

It's just what the regulation says: you must log at least 250 hours of flight time and at least 50 of those hours must be PIC time in airplanes and 10 hours of cross country PIC time in airplanes. As for the other two hundred hours? They can be in any other kind of aircraft you like.

It's actually a very common way to build raw hours. A lot of fixed wing pilots get rotorcraft certificates in a fraction of the total time than if they started training from scratch in helicopters. It also works well with gliders, hot air balloons, you name it.

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    $\begingroup$ How about a lawn chair with helium balloons tied to it? $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ That's an LTA gas balloon by the regs, so yes I guess you could log time in it. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 8:23
  • $\begingroup$ Do aircraft not need to be of some approved model to log time in? o.O $\endgroup$
    – Weaver
    Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 8:59
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ All you need to be is arropriately certificated for that particular category or class or have a type rating for the aircraft in question. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 9:01
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    $\begingroup$ As an update ymb1 is correct; UAS are not a type of aircraft defined under §61.5. Therefore per §61.51 you cannot log UAS flight time toward aeronautical experience for a pilot certificate or rating. So drones are out for this. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2017 at 22:45

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