I was watching a presentation from a software developers' conference in which the presenter went through the steps leading to the crash of United Airlines Flight 232 to make a point about Crew Resource Management and how it relates to software development.

This prompted me to read the above linked Wikipedia article and see mentions of the flight hours the captain and first officer had accumulated. Now the Wikipedia article on flight hours doesn't explain it, so I was wondering: how are these flight hours logged (and I don't mean on which medium)?

  • Are fractions of an hour taken into account or only ever full hours? I.e. if some pilot flew 1:27 h on one flight and 1:33 h on another how does that count towards the logged flight hours?
  • Given many regulations surrounding aviation seem to be global, is the way flight hours are logged uniform around the world?
  • Any differences between commercial, private and military aviation?

NB: I'm a layperson.

Originally my question also asked for this detail:

  • Is the time from the gate to the runway counted?
    • In regard to US regulations it's been answered here
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to the site! Do you mean flight hours in the context of total experience in the cockpit, or flight hours for the purposes of crew rest? $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jul 6, 2020 at 12:58
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    $\begingroup$ @GdD phew ... frankly I meant the total experience in the cockpit, because I wasn't even aware of the distinction you mention. $\endgroup$ Jul 6, 2020 at 13:24
  • $\begingroup$ @GdD I think that other Q&A answers the third point, right. Could you elaborate how the questions are different depending on the context and how I might improve on my existing question (or perhaps split it up)? The issue is that as a layperson I may lack the knowledge and terminology when it comes to these things, so your insights are much appreciated. $\endgroup$ Jul 6, 2020 at 14:10
  • $\begingroup$ I think all of your questions are answered there, except the first. There's no set rule on that, most people round the time to the closest 5 minutes. $\endgroup$
    – GdD
    Jul 6, 2020 at 15:38

2 Answers 2


I can answer part of this by experience, as a non-professional hobbyist pilot, and partly by information which is fairly easy to come by. So here goes:

Are fractions of an hour taken into account or only ever full hours? I.e. if some pilot flew 1:27 h on one flight and 1:33 h on another how does that count towards the logged flight hours?

Fractions of hours are absolutely taken into account. Typically accuracy is not to the minute, as this would be fairly pointless but typical schemes are to round to the nearest 1/10th of an hour (6 minutes) or 5 minutes. Personally, a long time ago I chose to go for 5 minute rounding and have regretted it ever since - 6 minutes is much easier to add up when dealing with hours & minutes!

Given many regulations surrounding aviation seem to be global, is the way flight hours are logged uniform around the world?

Nothing in aviation is global, or very little. Although there are bodies such as ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation) which most member states tend to derive most of their rules from. For the purpose of logging flight time, I expect most civil pilots log on the basis of "Chock to chock" time. Which is to say when the aircraft moves under it's own power until it stops.

Any differences between commercial, private and military aviation?

From what I can tell, the only difference is military which seem to log in-air time. This, I'm told, is why military airmen who intend to pursue a commercial pilot career after they're discharged maintain a separate record of their flight time.

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    $\begingroup$ Thanks! So you'd round up always? And the separate record kept by military pilots would be kept according to the rules you outlined for civilian pilots, right? $\endgroup$ Jul 6, 2020 at 18:57

There isn't a global standard, and even national regulations can be maddeningly vague, which is one of the reasons why this comes up often with new pilots or when moving to a different country.

For instance, the FAA only allows (though does not require) logging time that a pilot is "operating an aircraft for the purposes of flight."

General Aviation pilots generally uses Hobbs time, which is from engine start (or, depending on the wiring, from taxi start) to engine shutdown, because that's how most rental places charge.

Airline pilots generally use block time, which is from cabin door close to cabin door open, because that's how pilots are paid, so there are already automated systems recording that number and reporting it to them on their paychecks.

Military pilots log only time in the air. Since they're neither paying for nor getting paid for any specific flight, this is the simplest number.

Confusingly, an airline pilot who also flies GA and AF/ANG reserves on his days off will be logging flights under all three systems! Fortunately, the FAA accepts all three as valid interpretations, and perhaps these disparite practices are why their regulation on the matter is so vague in the first place.

As for accuracy, nearly everyone rounds to the nearest tenth of an hour, which also somewhat masks the differences between the systems.

  • $\begingroup$ AF/ANG == Air Force/Air National Guard? $\endgroup$ Jul 6, 2020 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ @0xC0000022L Yes, I'm pretty sure that's what is meant there. Also, just so you're aware, while it's not required, normal practice on SE is to wait about a day before accepting an answer in case a better/more complete one shows up. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Jul 6, 2020 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab Just to explain. There's a reason I do this. I sometimes "lose sight" of a question for prolonged periods. So I'd rather accept a good answer than no answer, even if it later turns out there's an even better answer. It annoys me when questions have been objectively answered but remain marked as unanswered, because the inquirer doesn't bother to accept any answer. But in my experience answers that tend to be a lot better often don't appear until much later. So even the one day practice you paraphrase wasn't very effective for me in the past. But YMMV. $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2020 at 7:06
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    $\begingroup$ @0xC0000022L No problem, that makes sense. I originally just saw your rep here and didn't notice you had been around SO and other SE sites for a long time, so I thought you were a new user at first and was trying to help. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Jul 7, 2020 at 7:08
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    $\begingroup$ @reirab yep, and it's much appreciated. Having just asked my first question, I found this so far one of the most welcoming SE communities. There are others that are on par, but you only get to be a "new contributor" once per site, so it's fun to see it. And it's a pleasure to see this community so welcoming, when having experienced it quite differently on a few other SE sites. So thanks and 👍 $\endgroup$ Jul 7, 2020 at 9:34

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