Buy Time or Get CFI

Did the ATP school thing in 2005 ending with commercial SEL/MEL and about 250 hours. Left aviation for another career and to start a family, but Last year at the age of 42 started planning a career change “back” to aviation with an eye towards eventual corporate flying. Sit now with less than 300 hours, amid the covid shutdown.

Considering buying a couple hundred hours in a club plane (I have the money), to get up to ~500 hours with some good fresh instrument time, thinking this might set me up well in about a year to hunt for some low-time SIC position. The alternative, is get my CFI and try to find students over the next year or two amid what’s probably a less ambitious pool of students/clients.

Which of these two options would you recommend? Pros/cons or other suggestions?

It’s difficult for me to imagine there being many if any opportunities for someone with 500 hours with how the job market is trending currently. And now it’s not only due to an impending surplus of pilots with less than 1500 hours, but also insurance companies putting the clamp down on minimums to even fly as SIC. In my opinion, unless you know someone or have a job waiting on you, a CFI certificate is going to be the best route and will give you more flexibility in the future.


I always come back to quality vs quantity in these discussions. Sure, your plan will help you build total time and instrument time, albeit mostly simulated I imagine, but if your aiming for a low-time SIC gig I don’t think that will cut it for two reasons.

Punching holes in the sky on your own dime is not complex enough to build the necessary skills to fly for a corporate or cargo company. You have a long gap in your experience and will have no former professional flight experience to present to an employer. At the very least I recommend earning your CFI cert and teaching as a start. You may want to consider an MEI as well, or getting some more multi engine time just because it’s been so long since you’ve flown and I imagine most of the companies that you’ll be interested in operate some form of multi engine turbine aircraft.

Second, you’ll be competing among a strong pool of applicants considering the current climate. A lot of pilots are looking for corporate and cargo jobs these days since CFI jobs are filling up and the airlines have paused all hiring. I don’t think buying time will be enough to compete against the other candidates that will be applying for the same job unless you get lucky or network your way into a low time SIC job. Idk about you, but I wouldn’t bet my luck against myself.



I would agree with Peter and Tory on this one. CFI time is generally regarded as quality flight time and is well respected by most employers. Flight departments, and airlines, like to see CFIs as they know those pilots are usually pretty up to speed and current on knowledge. I don’t think that buying flight time is going to show much other than you spend a lot of nice weather days turning circles in the sky. I would recommend getting your CFI certificates and looking for an instructing job.



I tend to go with the others CFI wise. That said if I were you instead of just buzzing around I’d start building that time working on my CFI. Frankly it’ll make you a better pilot. While you’re doing that and spending quality time at the local FBO I’d start looking around and networking your area. If there’s anyone offering any low time jobs great! But if not you’ll have your CFI and see if you can get an instructor gig.

To me it’s not an either or but more of what opportunities present themselves.


Interesting advice and much appreciated!

I actually was thinking of focusing the “buy” time giving flexibility to travel and target as much real IFR time as possible (I.e pick cloudy/overcast areas and times along the coast), compared to the CFI option being mostly (if not all) VFR time teaching primary flight instruction. Obviously the CFII then comes to play as a next step, but practically speaking IFR instruction locally is going to be mostly simulated anyway. Perhaps I’m overstating the value of IFR time in my thinking.

I’ve already passed the CFI knowledge test and was heading that route anyway (pre industry crash) - so your input helps solidifies continuing in that initial direction. Opinion, but I don’t see any reason the industry wouldn’t rebound stronger than before in the next 2-3 years, and I’m too old to miss this opportunity to lay a solid foundation in advance.

Thanks again!

I have 3500 hours and only 25 of that is actual instrument time. The 1200 hours I flew teaching is far more valuable than any of my actual instrument time.