Real Answers from Real Pilots

Work Hours vs Flight Hours

I’m coming from a military helicopter background with 4500 hrs (120 of that single engine FW) and rotary ATP but, with the training being offered by the regionals, am considering making the switch to the airlines when I retire in a year and a half. It looks like most regionals guarantee around 75 hours a month. Is this pretty close to what is actually flown? How many days of flying does it actually take to make those numbers?

Ricke,

Most pilots will fly more hours than 75, usually around 90 or so. Typically it takes between 16-18 days per month to do so. Please understand that these are very broad generalizations and that there can be some significant deviation within that.

Chris

Broad generalizations are fine. This is good gouge. Thanks!

Anytime. Let us know how else we can help you.

Ricke,

Just to elaborate some on what Chris said, as you know everything at the airlines is based on seniority. As you gain seniority you gain more control over your schedule and you also get access to “better” trips. Now everyone has their preferences but generally speaking the idea is to work as little as possible so for most pilots “better” means more efficient. I’m currently flying the A330 and I’m mid seniority on the plane. I usually get 3 day Asia trips. The 3 days Asia are usually worth about 17hrs. That means to fly the 85-90hrs I like in pay I need to do at least 5 trips (5 x 17hrs = 85hrs) which means I’m working 15 days. Not terrible. Now the junior guys are doing all the West Coast flying which are worth about 13hrs each. For them to get to the same 85hrs they have to do 6 trips which can mean up to 18 days of work. Obviously not as good. Now the senior guys are doing the PEKs. Those trips are worth about 24hrs and are only 2 day turns. Do 4 of those and you’ve blocked 96hrs of pay and only worked 8 days giving you 22 days off in the month. THAT’s the goal.

Adam

How hard is it to gain extra hours at the majors? Is it difficult for someone with less seniority to gain hours?

Alex,

That completely depends on the Major, how they’re staffed and their contract. Often when you’re a new pilot you’ll be on Reserve and many airlines do not allow you to pick up extra flying on Reserve (but some will). If the airline is staffed well and has sufficient reserves you shouldn’t be flying much but if they’re not they may be flying you as much as they can. Not something I’d worry about.

Adam

Is the amount of hours guaranteed for a reserve pilot in a major airline the amount they will probably be working or will it be more? I also wanted to ask if once you are not on reserve is that when they allow you to pick up hours, is it still difficult to do so? Are you only on reserve at the beginning . If so how long do most pilots stay on reserve?

Alex,

Generally at my airline, if you are on reserve, your guarantee hours are 73 per month and you will usually fly less than that.

As a line holder you can expect to fly between 85 and 90 hours per month. It can be difficult to fly more than that because of restrictions imposed by the FAA.

The amount of time on reserve can vary greatly from one person to the next as it all depends on the economy, airline growth rate, which equipment and seat you are on, etc. It can be anywhere from a few months, to several years.

Chris