How Does A Pilot Build Quality Flight Hours? (The Pilot Shortage).

Beech King Air Landing
The Beech King Air 200

Every low-time pilot has the desire to build hours. At the beginning of flight training, the goal is that 40 mark to obtain the Private Pilot Certificate. And the never-ending struggle to build more time continues. So, How Does A Pilot Build Quality Flight Hours?  Let’s look at some ways available today.

How Does A Pilot Build Quality Flight Hours?

There’s only one way to build quality flight time, one hour at a time. There are other very good options available for less expensive time building, but there’s only one way. One hour at a time. The flight instructor is the best way.

1. The Do It Yourself Method Of Time Building.

This method is by far the best for having ultimate fun and freedom with an airplane. At least from my point of view.

I bought a new 1974 Cessna 172 for my primary instruction and started out with a freshly printed Private Pilot Certificate and about 50 whole hours under my belt.

It was in the dead of Winter and I flew all over the Westen United States.

I can say that it was a learning experience like no other.

Learning all about sea level airplane performance and mountain flying. Cold and hot weather operations and how to maintain an aircraft, just for starters.

Buying an airplane was the cheapest way to do my flight training.

I was lucky enough to be able to buy the airplane build hours and move toward completing training.

This is still the very best way to do the work and you always have the airplane to use anytime you want to fly.

That airplane made it possible to build the time I needed and I then traded it for a 1974 Cessna 182 for my instrument rating. N52308 and I fell in love with that airplane.

As an added bonus you can sell the aircraft and recapture the capital spent. But you save a huge amount of money. Renting, even through a flying club is very expensive.

2. Introduce And Promote Yourself At The Airport.

 Being a low-time pilot with thousands of dollars spent getting the time and ratings you need is not a good place to be. This is a go, no go situation with no idea if you will ever reach your goal.

This is the time to get outside your comfort zone and find what you need. Especially if money is tight.

I cannot emphasize enough the absolute importance of getting a CFI.

Even if that seems unimportant or you think you don’t want to teach or whatever stops you from the rating, believe me, it is not. It opens doors.

You will be learning and teaching your whole career. That you can count on.

Go out to the airport and socialize and get acquainted with everyone. Especially the “line guys”Ask every pilot you meet if you can fly with them as a safety pilot or just fly. This is where the CFI becomes really important.

The CFI  allows you to log time just riding along and you might be able to drum up some business. Everyone needs a CFI.

Trade your time for flight time.

Call every Skydiver company and if they are local go see them. This is not the time to be shy. Do whatever it takes.

3. Buy Your Time For Flight Training And Time Building.

Many companies will sell blocks of hours to pilots and you may use them at your convenience. You can save some money over the hourly rate.

I ran across a company in Colorado, Odyssey Pilot Hours, that is intriguing because they will help you build time fast. Just remember nothing is cheap in aviation.

Of course the more ratings you have the cheaper your journey will be.

They can provide lodging at a $25.oo rate per night as well and you can fly 35 to 50 hours per week.

You can also garner new certificates and ratings along the way.

Check them out here.

4. Accelerated Schools For Quality Time Building.

ATP Schools is one option. There are 71 schools nationwide and these guys claim to put you in an Airline seat in 7 months with an ATP.

I have heard some concerns about these schools that, in my opinion, should require some serious investigation.

They can take you from zero hours to ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) in less than a year and get you an interview with an airline.

That is something I would consider providing I had the $80,000.00 or more to do it if I really wanted to get a passenger airline job.

Or even borrow it for the chance to make hundreds of thousands a year during my career.

Plus it is a prestigious position in life. But one with massive responsibility. Be a pilot and see the world.

5. The Electric Flight Training Airplane.

Today this is a viable option because the cost of electricity versus AvGas is very substantial.

You save a minimum of about 13 gallons of aviation fuel per hour using a Cessna 172. At 6 to 7 dollars a gallon for fuel, it really adds up for 100 hours of quality flight time.

They are well equipped with glass cockpits and they have a solid hour of flight time with 20 minutes of reserve time at about $3.00 for electricity cost per hour.

The best airplane I have researched this year is the Slovenian Pipestral which is FAA approved.

However, there are other electric airplane makers that will soon have FAA approval as well.

There is a program for women only that will be open in 2024 that will use electric trainers.

This company was founded by Elle Lear, (Learjet), for women using the Bye Aerospace electric trainer eFlyer.

Birde Academy is one to keep a watchful eye on and if you are a woman Birde should be on your enrollment list.

6. Airline Cadet Training Programs.

Take your choice of almost every airline having a cadet training program to groom new pilots and you get your shot at an interview.

This is the individual airlines’ attempt at fulfilling the growing shortage of pilots.

Their programs follow the same principles that the others described in this article discuss.

United Airlines, Skywest Airlines, and Frontier Airlines, to name just a few are seeking cadets for their programs.

United’s Aviate program is quite substantial even if you do not have a Private Certificate.

If you qualify they will pay for a Private and they have numerous scholarships available. You must be selected to apply for a scholarship.

They have two financial sources which can apply for, regardless of credit.

The point is if you want an airline career look into United Aviate here.

Since these programs are relatively new I really don’t know exactly how they are going to achieve success, but it’s certainly worth the time to research them.

You can easily access their websites and decide if one of these programs would be better than some other avenue for your flight training.

Please remember that an Airline job can be precarious because even the big Airlines have fallen. Always have a backup plan when you are out of work. Maybe an A&P Certificate that opens more doors?

Please read my article on the pluses of an ATP, a CFI, and an A&P on this site for some thoughts there.

7. The University Approach.

Pilots who choose to do an aviation degree in the University system as well as all of their flight credentials certainly have my admiration.

Most of these people wind up with their Certified Flight Instructor ratings and teach for the remaining amount of time needed to acquire the airline transport pilot rating.

I’ve met many of these people who found jobs with single-pilot 135 operators and they are making $65,000.00 to $80,000.00 a year to start.

These kinds of Pilots learn to fly in all-weather situations. A great quality to have.

8. Aerial Photos And Banner Towing.

These are hard-to-find jobs along with flying Skydivers and to be honest, are not any kind of job that will get you real flying experience. Just VFR flight time. You may or may not survive on the income from these jobs, but it is hours flown.

That is the part that is really hard because a pilot needs real-world weather flying experience. Plus you must get some multi-engine (turbine is best) time to really be considered which is very expensive.


Flight Training and time building will always be a one-hour-at-a-time endeavor.  It’s just how you choose to do your training that’s important.

It is an individual decision about what works best in your life.

How you choose to complete your training should have consideration for the type of lifestyle that each area of Commercial Aviation envelops. They are all different.

If you are young or single and it appears that you don’t mind being away from home for long periods of time then I would approach the airline lifestyle with vigor.

If you’re a family person and you want to be home every night or weekend then you might want to consider a regional or even a corporate position.

There are literally hundreds of jobs that are available right now in all avenues of Aviation and choosing the correct one for yourself is not an easy process.

But when it comes to Flight Training it’s probably best to get it over as fast as you possibly can so I think these accelerated programs are fantastic but of course, that depends on money.

If you are hell-bent on being an airline pilot then by all means join one of the cadet programs. Pay attention to United Aviate and all the airline programs because things are happening fast.

My own personal opinion is that Pilots that come up through the ranks from Part 135  single pilot operators to the Regionals and then to the major airlines really have the best experience.

A pilot should have all the weather experience that they can possibly acquire. It is an unforgiving world in the sky.

I wish there was a way to make the journey easier. Or cheaper.

If you consider what your potential future earnings could be in a 30-year career the cost of training is really insignificant. That does not make the journey less stressful and costly.

I would like to be able to say it is easy, but the truth is that every step of the way is another hurdle.

Fly safe and keep learning.

Related: Should I Become A Pilot, A Mechanic Or Both? ( 5 Knuckle Busting Thoughts.)

Please leave your comments or questions, they are most welcome.




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