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?

Karlene Petitt, author of Flight For Control

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.

– Cecilie

Posted on June 30, 2012, in Flight For Control and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Cecilie, this is a great post…. “14 exams!” Wow. For all the US pilots… no more whining. Unless you are part of Jet Whine. The more time the better for sure. But quality is the key. And how do you get that? That is the challenge.

    I met a pilot about 15 years ago who was getting ready to retire from NWA. He said, “one day I saw an add in the news paper for an engineer position. I was an engineer by education, so I went to an interview. They said, ‘not that kind of engineer. Can you fly a plane?’ Then I left and learned how to fly a plane. 250 hours later I was back and they hired me.” Those were the days. But the days, and the system, have changed significantly.

    Excellent idea on keeping track in the comment section if you’re flying in some serious weather. Also, interviewers love to ask questions about how you dealt with situations. This will be a great refresher.

    Back to the comment, “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…” It reminds me of a story when a character says, “what could go wrong now?”

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Thank you so much for the great comment Karlene! As always, much appreciated.

      The story about the flight engineer is excellent and shows us how much the industry have changed. Some parts to the better. Other parts… Well, not so much!

  2. Even though I prefer quality over quantity, I must say that in this industry they both have to coincide. Flying in various conditions for a certain number of hours. Every flight is a challenge as flights are unpredictable.. Anything could happen during a flight and yes, I would never want anyone with an easy attitude flying with me either…..

    I agree with the comment field of a log book. The more detailed The better… Have a great week. :-))

    • Thank you so much for your comment (and retweet) Jeremy! Much appreciated. Have a wonderful weekend you too 🙂

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