Busting the 1500-Hour Myth

Busting the 1500-Hour Myth

  • September
  • 13
  • 2022
  • Advanced Aircrew Academy

Some rules are created to save money, and some rules are created to save lives. Other times, rules which don't make complete sense are created because there is a perception that risk is not being properly managed, and it is merely a knee jerk reaction of the risk averse. Quite often, these new rules can also create unintended consequences.

This is just what happened after the Colgan Air Q400 crash in 2009. There was a perception by Congress that the operator and Federal Aviation Administration were not doing enough to keep the public safe from inexperienced pilots making bad decisions.

We talk incessantly about a pilot shortage but, unfortunately, Congress forced their own solution on the aviation industry in 2013 stating that pilots must have at least 1500 flight hours before they can work at an airline. That is not an easy (or inexpensive) task. Both pilots in the Colgan Air crash had far more than 1500 hours, but Congress felt compelled to regulate the aviation industry further in order to make the non-flying (or most importantly, our customer base) more comfortable. Most pilots agree this rule has little effect on competency and safety of flight, but Congress still put lipstick on the proverbial pig of aviation, and everyone who has little to no aviation experience thought it looked so much better that Congress considered it a win. However, those who do fly aircraft understand that more hours does not always equal more competence if pilots aren't able to adapt, learn, and grow. There is huge difference between a pilot who has flown 1500 hours and a pilot who has more accurately flown the same one hour a whopping 1500 times. The difference is individual skill and the ability to interpret events, change behaviors or actions when necessary, and refine techniques as you log time.

The saving grace is that, for talented and dedicated pilots, it does leave some wiggle room for business aviation pilots as some have been able to obtain jobs with as little as 250 hours if you know where to look. Privately owned aircraft (Part 91) have been known to hire pilots with as little as 400 hours total time, as well as charter pilots (Part 135) who have opportunities ranging from cargo to scheduled passenger service for those looking to build hours as well as experience.

We know the 500-hour mark is typically a huge milestone, but some Part 135 Air Carriers have hired pilots who were definitely under that mark, so don't let the 1500-hour requirement get into your head or make you feel unemployable. Some Advanced Aircrew Academy customers are already seeking the Part 135 Second in Command (SIC) Professional Development Program, which allows a lower-time right seat pilot to log flight time operating a single pilot aircraft!

Additional aviation opportunities exist for skydive jump pilots, air tours, certified flight instructors (CFI), banner towing, and aircraft ferry pilots if you are looking to gain experience and draw a paycheck while doing it.

The bottom line is that there are certainly opportunities out there if you desire to make aviation a career. The most important qualities in any pilot are precision, adaptability, dedication, and a truly purposeful desire to succeed. If you have those things, be creative keep your eyes and ears open, and opportunities are there for your taking.

Good luck and keep flying as it is a skill you will never regret.