Quality of time v.s quantity of time
Does increasing the requirement for first officers total flight time increase safety? Do 3000 hours of flying a Cessna 152 in a traffic pattern equal 500 hours of bush flying in Alaska? What about 350 hours of flying a jet, while holding a type-rating? Or 600 hours of teaching instruments in a complex aircraft? What is the answer, quality of time or total time?
This question has be actualized by a recent regulation passed by the Federal Aviation Administration, requiring first officers to have 1500 hours total time to be hired by the airlines. For people flying under JAA jurisdiction (Europe) this regulation has been enforced for some time now. After we pass the 14 written ATPL (Airline Transport Pilot License) exams we receive something known as the (f)ATPL, or Frozen ATPL. Until we reach 1500 hours total time, it’s frozen. On the paper, this is a good idea, because you would think a pilot with 1500 hours have a lot of experience. At least I would think so, considering I only have about 80 hours and I feel very inexperienced so far.
But what matters, is how those 1500 hours are spent. Are the spent flying in demanding weather conditions? Mountain flying? Busy airspace? Or were they spent flying around the pattern, hour after hour, without any engine problems and in good weather?
Of course it matters. But how could you differentiate between demanding flights and easier flights? Make different log book entries? As if not log book updates were hard enough to calculate already.
No flights are easy. It takes precision, alertness and great communication skills to ensure the safe outcome of the flight. Every flight is like that. If anyone get’s into an airplane and thinks “this is going to be easy”, I’ll assure you that won’t be the case, and I most certainly not want people like that flying with me. Taking anything like that for granted is ridiculous.
With that being said, I think the best advice is to try to use the comment section in your log book more. Try to describe what type of flying you were doing. Maybe add a comment on the weather. That way you can know yourself that you’ve had plenty of real world experience.
Both quality and quantity matter. Maybe not equally as much, because I think the quality of the flight time is more important than how many hours total you have. It’s what you fill those hours with that matter the most, in my opinion.