The Aviation 1500 Hour Rule: Insights from an Experienced Pilot.

SOUTHAFRICAPPL- The Aviation 1500 Hour Rule Insights from an Experienced Pilot.

The 1500-Hour Requirement : What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

Becoming a commercial pilot is a big dream for many people. But the way to become one can be different depending on where you live. In the United States, there’s a rule called the 1500-hour rule. You have to learn about can pilots were glasses.

This rule, made by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), says that pilots in the U.S. must have at least 1500 hours of flying experience before they can work for big airlines like FedEx, American Airlines, or Delta.

In other parts of the world, like the UK and Europe, pilots only need 250 hours of flying experience to do the same thing. This big difference has caused a lack of pilots in the United States.

What does this mean for people who want to be pilots in the U.S.? It means that even after they finish their training and get the right qualifications, they can’t work as co-pilots for big airlines right away. They have to spend more time, usually 12 to 24 months, building up their flying hours by teaching or doing other things before they can even apply to these major airlines.

The reason for this big difference in requirements is the rules made by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in the UK and Europe. Over there, pilots can start working for major airlines as soon as they finish their training, as long as they have a special pilot’s license and 250 flying hours.

The 1500-hour rule is the main reason there aren’t enough pilots in the United States right now. It makes the journey to becoming a pilot longer and sometimes more challenging. But it’s an important rule to make sure pilots have enough experience before they fly big commercial planes.

The Pilot Shortage 2023

Let’s talk about the rule for pilots in the United States called the “1500-hour rule.” This rule is made by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). It says that in the U.S., new pilots have to fly for 1500 hours before they can work for an airline.

Before this rule, it was different. Pilots could become airline pilots in the U.S. with a license called ATP (Airline Transport Pilot). To get this license, they needed a commercial pilot’s license and at least 250 hours of flying, plus special training for airlines.

The FAA 1500-Hour Rule In America

But now, in the United States, because of the 1500-hour rule, even after they finish their training and become fully qualified, new pilots must fly for 1500 hours. This is on top of all the training they’ve already done, like learning in the classroom, flying basic planes, flying in bad weather, and flying at night. So, they need to fly for 1250 more hours to meet this requirement.

It’s important to know that in the U.S., everyone has to follow this rule. It’s a law made by the FAA, and there are no exceptions.

Are There Any Exemptions?

On the other hand, this rule is only for the United States. In Europe and the UK, there is no such rule. New pilots in these places can start working for airlines with just 250 hours of flying after getting their Commercial Pilot’s License.

So, to sum it up, pilots in the United States have to deal with the 1500-hour rule, but in Europe and the UK, new pilots can start working for airlines with just 250 hours of flying once they get their Commercial Pilot’s License.

Why Does The 1500 Hour Rule Exist? The Colgan Aviation Accident

To understand why they made the 1500-hour rule, we need to look back at where it came from. But first, let’s talk about how safe flying is and how airlines are serious about safety.

When we talk about flying, the most dangerous part isn’t the actual flight; it’s the journey to the airport, usually by car.

The 1500-hour rule, also known as the ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) rule, came about after a tragic airplane crash in February 2009 involving Colgan Air in the United States. They put this rule in place to make sure pilots get really good training and make flying safer. They also made rules about how much rest pilots need before their flights to make sure passengers stay safe.

How Do Pilots Achieve These Extra Hours To Get Their ATP Certificate?

SOUTHAFRICAPPL-Pilots Achieve These Extra Hours To Get Their ATP Certificate complete guide of 1500 hour rule

Pilots can gather the flight hours they need in a couple of ways. Some choose to rent smaller planes and pay for the extra hours they fly. But, the more usual way is to use their Commercial Pilot License (CPL) to make money by flying.

Many people who dream of becoming airline pilots decide to get their flight instructor qualification (which can cost extra money) and then get paid to teach others how to fly. This is a common path to becoming an airline pilot in the American aviation industry.

Most flight training schools include an Instructor’s Rating in their structured training programs and later hire these instructors after they finish their training. Others may explore options like flying cargo, towing banners, taking skydivers up to high places, spraying fields with pesticides from planes, or working for smaller transport companies that carry fewer passengers.

How Long Does It Take To Get 1500 Hours Of Flight Time?

Getting the extra 1250 hours you need to meet the 1500-hour rule can take some time. Some flight training groups say they can help new Commercial Pilot License (CPL) holders get those hours in just one year, but that’s a bit optimistic. The most a pilot can legally fly in a year is 900 hours, which is quite a busy schedule.

In reality, even if you try to speed things up, it usually takes from 12 to 18 months to reach the 1500-hour goal. If you want to know more about how long it takes to become a pilot, we have a detailed blog post that talks about it in depth.

Airline Operators Also require Flight Hours To Be On Specific Aircraft Types.

Airline companies in the USA have extra rules besides the well-known 1,500-hour rule for pilots. Different airlines have different requirements.

Some American airlines want their pilots to have about 1,000 hours of flying experience in specific types of planes. Some airlines only hire pilots who have flown bigger jet or turbo-propeller planes.

But there’s good news too! Southwest Airlines has made a change to its pilot requirements because there aren’t enough qualified pilots available. Pilots still need to have 1,500 hours of flying experience, but now, only 500 of those hours have to be in larger turbo-propeller or jet planes. This is a positive change, and we hope other airlines will do something similar to make it easier for aspiring pilots.

So, becoming a pilot in the airline industry in the USA is more complicated than just meeting the 1,500-hour rule.

The 1500-Hour Rule In America – A Pilots Opinion

From a pilot’s point of view, if you’ve finished pilot training and want to start working for an airline with only 250 hours of experience, the 1,500-hour rule might seem unnecessary.

Pilots In America Get Brilliant Training

In the United States, flight training schools have very strict training standards, similar to the UK and Europe. Pilots get a CPL license after lots of training, which is not easy. The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) makes sure that flight safety standards are strict, and that’s why the USA has highly skilled pilots, just like in the UK and Europe.

Hour Building Isn’t Relevant To Flying A Commercial Jet

Hour building, in the context of becoming a commercial pilot, may seem a bit puzzling. You see, commercial pilots need to rack up an additional 1250 hours of flying before they can even think about joining an airline. Many folks find this rule a little hard to swallow.

This 1500-hour requirement has sparked quite a commotion, with airlines teaming up to petition for its removal. The crux of the matter is that many believe that accumulating hours as an instructor or in small, single-engine planes doesn’t align with the actual demands of piloting a big commercial jet.

You see, flying a Cessna 172 for an extra 1000 hours doesn’t necessarily transform a pilot into a safer or better-equipped professional for handling a large jet, which guzzles more fuel in an hour than the Cessna weighs!

Moreover, there’s the stark contrast between flying under Visual Flight Rules (VFR) during hour-building and operating a twin/multi-engine jet under Instrument Flight Rules (IFR), as required in airline piloting. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.

It’s also worth mentioning that even before the 1500-hour rule came into play, the pilots involved in the unfortunate Colgan crash already had more than 1500 flight hours. So, it leaves you wondering about the effectiveness of this requirement.

One thing’s certain, though—the 1500-hour rule has contributed to a massive shortage of pilots in the USA. The extensive training costs, combined with the need to log more than a thousand hours afterward, make the pilot career seem daunting to newcomers.

No 1500 Hour Rule In Europe/United Kingdom = No Pilot Shortage

Now, if you cross the pond to Europe or the UK, you’ll notice a stark difference. Over there, they don’t have this 1500-hour rule. This means there’s always a fresh supply of pilots eager to join airlines.

These fortunate pilots often start with a ‘Frozen’ Airline Transport Pilots License (ATPL), which doesn’t require them to amass 1500 hours. The ATPL only becomes “unfrozen” and complete once they’ve gathered the requisite hours and passed the skills test on their aircraft type in a simulator.

This skills test usually involves a manual, hands-on approach, steering away from autopilots and auto-thrust systems. In simpler terms, it’s about flying without relying on automation.

Once they pass this test, they attain the full ATPL, a necessary step to become a captain. This system has significantly eased the pilot shortage situation in Europe and the UK compared to the challenges faced in the USA.

Is the FAA going to change the 1500 hour rule?

No, the FAA doesn’t plan to change the 1500 hour rule.

The 1500 hour rule has been a topic of discussion, with some saying it’s outdated, while others argue it’s essential for aviation safety. The FAA, however, has made it clear they won’t remove the rule.


Despite the pilot shortage, the 1500 hour rule is staying put. It may seem excessive to those who trained in the UK and didn’t need to follow it. The Colgan Air accident was tragic, and some view the 1500 hour rule as a hasty response. Despite airlines’ pressure for change, it appears the rule will remain. Do you believe the 1500 hour rule makes cockpits and the aviation industry safer?

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