Real Answers from Real Pilots

Building time towards ATP in another category/class

Hello everyone, I have a question that I’ve been curious about for sometime, for Airline Transport Pilot certificate, only 250 hours are required to be in airplane category and 50 in the class (typically AMEL), what are some opinions about building time let’s say in a hot air balloon if I have an opportunity to fly them, provided that I meet all the requirements for ATP certificate. I know that experience is hardly relevant but it will check the boxes.

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Not a Lawyer

So long as you meet all of the Aeronautical Experience requirements of 61.159 (there are more requirements than the 250 PIC and 50 in class you mention) then I see no reason you cannot count experience towards the 1500 total time required that was accrued in another category/class so long as the time accrued was legal (you are rated in such category and class or receiving instruction from an authorized instructor). The actual aeronautical experience is a patchwork of times/requirements and you would need to do your homework to ensure you meet such requirements.

That said, you may have difficulty meeting the minimum HIRING requirements depending on what airline/operator you apply for down the road.

Good question,

  • T
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Pavel,

I don’t believe there’s anything preventing you from logging lighter than air time (provided you’re licensed) towards the 1500hr ATP requirement. However, the 1500hrs is more than just to “check the boxes”. If we’re talking about a few hours here or there that’s fine but if you’re trying to build a significant amount of time that way I would caution you. I’ll assume your goal is to reach the airlines? If that’s the case I can tell you if I were on your interview panel and saw more than 100hrs balloon time I’d be less than impressed. Further I’ve seen many a pilot who simply burned holes in the sky building time who failed miserably in airline newhire training. It’s not simply about the quantity. The quality of the hours is equally if not more important. The airlines will train you to fly their airplane, they will not make you a competent skilled instrument pilot. That’s what the 1500hrs are for. If the bulk of your time was earned floating around looking for wind currents and you can’t shoot an approach you will have some problems.

Adam

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Pavel,

Yes, you could count time in other categories of aircraft towards your 1,500 hours. But remember, airlines ands corporate operators hire pilots with experience flying airplanes, not blimps.

Chris

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Thanks all, my logic here is that if I meet all requirements for ATP AMEL with 1000 hours in airplane, and have 500 hours in a balloon or whatever other flying I decide to do for fun (glider, etc), it cannot be less competitive than having restricted ATP with 1000 hours and aviation 4 year degree, considering that I will have the same 1000 hours in airplanes and a 4 year non-aviation degree + non-airplane flying experience. Please correct me if my logic is flawed.

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Pavel,

Your logic is most definitely flawed. When the pilot shortage was in full effect, the Regionals were desperate and as long as you could obtain your ATP they were happy to hire you. While I believe we will return to those days it’s going to take some time. That means the airlines will be looking much closer at pilot’s resumes. Just because you can get your ATP and get hired with 1,000hrs that doesn’t mean you will be. Not when there are pilots with more.

Also you’re missing (again) that there is there’s a HUGE difference between getting hired and successfully completing training and actually getting on the line. You know what also came with the pilot shortage, the 1,000hr degree waiver and everyone with a pulse getting hired? The highest bust rates in history. Airline training is no joke and you need as much actual QUALITY flight experience as you can get. Otherwise you may very well end up with nothing more than a good story about how you were almost an airline pilot.

Your call.

Adam

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Pavel,

I second everything Adam said. To add to it, no, you will n to be as qualified as somebody with 1,500 hours in an airplane, or 1,000 in an airplane and an aviation degree. To be clear, the airlines want to see a degree, they are not really concerned with what field it is in. They also will most likely not care one bit about your non airplane flying experience. Remember, airlines and corporate operators hire pilots. They want to see flight time, in airplanes.

Chris

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Chris,
To be clear, what I was trying to say is that someone with 1000 hours and aviation degree who qualifies for ATP-R would be equally qualified as someone with 1000 hours airplane + 500 hours in a balloon an a non-aviation degree, because both individuals qualify for ATP and both have a degree and both have 1000 airplane hours, while the second person qualifies for unrestricted ATP. Does my logic make sense?

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Adam,
Just out of curiosity, what were the bust rates during pilot shortage and what’s considered a normal bust rate?

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Pavel,
As someone who recently went through months of applying and interviewing, I will tell you that it’s getting exceedingly more competitive. It’s not about getting your 1500 hours anymore and “checking the box”, it’s about what kind of experience did you get during those 1500 hours. How many hours of dual given (CFI time), Multi engine, turbine, high performance, etc. do you have compared to the other applicants. This is a time to be more aggressive seeking every kind of experience you can building your hours in airplanes of all types, not building time in less valuable hours no matter how easy or cheap they may come.

-Hannah

Pavel,

Honestly I have no idea. I’m a union rep and Training Committee liason and frequently have conversations with training chairs from other airlines including the Regionals. What I know is training failures were becoming a large concern for many of the properties, when it really hadn’t been an issue in the past.

Adam

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Pavel,

I know it’s been stated over and over, but balloon time has nothing to do with the traditional sense of commercial operations. If you have an opportunity to get some balloon experience in your free time, cool, but your primary focus should be to groom yourself to be a competitive and professional airline pilot.

In my opinion, 500 hours in a balloon is excessive. I see your point about comparing hours, but as the others have said, the industry is changing. I think your balloon time would actually make you less competitive.

Tory

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Speaking of being competitive, are hours that are paid for (instruction given and commercial operations) better on the resume than any leisure flying ($100 burger)? Do airlines even look at candidates who got most of their hours by paying for them out of pocket?

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Yes. Quality over quantity is always better. Of course a candidate with a lot of leisure flight time can find themselves in front of an interview panel, but companies want to see QUALITY, not quantity time. The 1500 hour rule is not just about numbers. It’s about quality flight experience.

Tory

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Yes of course they do. Pavel, I’m sorry you don’t seem to like my answer but the truth is the truth. I’ve participated in hiring at 2 airlines and the fact is training a new pilot is very expensive. The last thing they want is to waste their time and money on a slot that could be filled by a better candidate. When I was hired by both a Regional and a Major both reviewed my logbook very thoroughly.

While you may be looking to simply check boxes I assure the airline is not. And again (again) there’s a legitimate reason for that.

Adam

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Adam,

It’s not the I don’t like your answers, I don’t like today’s reality where there is so much uncertainty in the world, but oh well, there isn’t much we can do about it. The reason I am asking is because right now opportunities to build quality time are few and far between, and while I am fortunate enough to have landed a part time CFI gig, it provides very few hours, so I am trying to get the feel about how to prioritize other hour building opportunities that come my way (and ballooning was a real opportunity that was offered to me that seemed to check some boxes).

Happy holidays!
Pavel

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To be clear on this, if I could log a few hours in a balloon, I absolutely would. Just make sure to have plenty of actual airplane time in your logbook.

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Pavel,

Listen, I totally get it. Everyone is anxious to build time quickly and get to an airline. The sad fact is the Zombie Apocalypse has done some serious damage to the this industry and the economy and its most likely going to take you a little longer to build your time and that’s ok. Use that time to gone your skills, do some networking and become the best pilot you can. There are no short cuts and that’s not a bad thing.

Happy Holidays to you sir!

Adam

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Just curious, if I had asked this question during the peak of pilot shortage, and my choices were to get my hours three months earlier but few hundred of them in a balloon, vs wait for a few more months to get all hours through instruction, what would have the answer been then? Afterall, you can only log 8 hrs per day of instruction given, and everyone was racing to the finish line for seniority

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Pavel,

I would have answered exactly the same way.

Chris

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