How Long Does It Take To Become a Pilot – Start Today!

pilots in a plane

If I had to chose the most asked question from those interesting in a pilot career, “how long does it take to become a pilot” would definitely be on the top. Typically, the “Pilot” they are referring to is an airline pilot flying for a major airline at American Airlines on long flights. Current aviators know they are different types of pilots. Not only the Commercial Pilot who can fly a Boeing 777 on long 9 hours flights.

Pilots need different types of licenses and ratings to qualify for different jobs or tasks. Before you can get a license, you must take an “exam” called a check-ride. To take a check ride, you must meet the hourly requirements. Whether they are total hours, night hours, solo hours, or cross-country hours, they all must meet the requirements. Each license has different privileges. How long each take will depend on how quickly you grasp the lessons and knowledge of what you are working for and how often you are willing to train. This is how long it will take you to start flying your dream jet!

Private Pilot License

This is almost every pilot’s first major license. With this license, you are a pilot! Just can not fly the jets Delta is flying as yet.

With this license, you can fly by yourself without accepting any form of compensation or hire. You will need at least 40 hours of flying time to get this license. Within the 40 hours, they must include:

  • 20 hours with a flight instructor
  • 10 solo hours (flying while only you are in the aircraft)
  • 5 hours of cross-country (flying more than 50 nautical miles to a different airport)

Typically, when a student gets their Private Pilot License, they would have taken more than 40 hours. You can expect to get this rating in about 2-3 months with very frequent flying and training. The less time you are in the air, the longer it will take to get that license.

You would likely get an instrument rating after your private pilot license. This rating allows a pilot to fly in clouds legally and land at airports with low visibility, with the additional guidance from air traffic controller. This rating can take an additional month or more to complete.

Commercial Pilot License

Now, once you have this license, you can finally be compensated for your flights. You can get that bag for transporting passengers or cargo! The minimum hours to get this will be different from Part 141 vs Part 61 schools. For part 61 flight schools, this will take 250 minimum total hours to take the check ride, along with other requirements. This can take about 4 or more months. It all depends on how quickly you are going to build this flight time.

Most pilots training for an airline will want to ensure they have a multi-engine rating on their commercial license. If you earned a single-engine commercial license first, the rating can take as little as 2-4 weeks. Most airlines around the world can hire pilots with this license. These pilots will then go through a type rating training for the aircraft they will fly for at the company.

Some countries, like in the United States, require more flight hours to be qualified. For example, to get hired by a regional airline, you need an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL).


Airline Transport Pilot License

Regional airlines fly smaller aircraft and shorter routes than the major airlines. Envoy and Skywest are some examples. Like I said before, regional companies require an ATPL. The requirements include 1500 minimum total hours. However, if you are qualified for a restricted ATPL, you can get this at 1000 hours.

Most pilots build this time by becoming a flight instructor at their flight school. You can also build this time by doing banner towing, aerial photographing, or crop dusting. This can take 1-2 years.

When this is achieved, you can finally get that pilot job you always wanted!

Major Airlines

After flying with your regional airline for some time, you will eventually qualify for a job at the majors. Delta, American Airlines, or United have the “big boys” you might be interested in. This can dramatically vary, but pilots typically spend around 4 years at their regional airline.

Time To Fly!

New pilots always want to know how long it would take them to get their chance in front of the controls of a large Boeing 787.

  1. Flight school (Part 61) – 1-2 years
  2. Building time as a Flight Instructor – 1-2 years
  3. Regional Airline – 4 years

We are looking at a total of 6 years from starting at 0 hours. Uncontrolled factors such as financial issues, weather, or health impacts can extend this time. However, determination and proper mid-set can speed up your process.

So, what are you waiting for? Ready to “Aviate” your career?!


6 thoughts on “How Long Does It Take To Become a Pilot – Start Today!

  1. This is an interesting topic for me, I fly a lot and always wonder how much do pilots have to go true, before flying the big airplanes. I have a quick question How old do you have to be, to start your pilot career?

    1. Hi Nataliya, for the United States, you can start at 16 years old. This is the minimum to get your student pilot license in an airplane and start the training.

      To get your private pilot license, you must be 17 years old.

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