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Low-Time Pilot Jobs

Since 2013 pilots have had a significant hurdle to overcome, known as the 1,500-hour rule. The story of this rule begins when in 2013, US Congress decided to pass a bill entailing that all Airline Transport Pilots (ATP) must possess at least 1500 hours of flight time before attaining certification. Before this, pilots were only required to have a Commercial Pilot Certificate (CAX), which required 250 flight hours, before they could begin ATP training.

While 250 was the minimum for pilots to go to an airline, these pilots were far from competitive candidates. Most airlines wanted a pilot to acquire more hours before undergoing the rigorous ATP training provided by the airline. After implementing the 1,500-hour rule, many pilots were left to find ways to build enough hours to go to an airline, as most flight schools only get students 250 to 300 flight hours.

So what are some options for a pilot to build their flight time?

Out-Of-Pocket Flights

The first option is to self-fund flight time. This would entail a pilot buying or renting an aircraft and flying for recreational purposes to build time. This is typically the fastest but most costly option, as the cheapest options still cost over $100 per hour, making this an unreasonable option for most people.

As paying for flight hours is not an option for us common folk, the only way to attain sufficient flight hours is to find a low-time pilot job.


Many flight schools give students a chance to go through Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) training after completing their CAX checkride. As a CFI, a pilot will instruct other students on flying and, in doing so, gain lots of valuable flight time. Being a CFI is not the most lucrative job in aviation by any means. Pay can vary between $15 and $70 per hour, but work is not always the most consistent, as CFIs can only work when students are available. Being a CFI is also typically the fastest way to reach the airlines. Depending on schedules, most full-time CFIs can reach the airlines within 1-2 years of instructing.