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How many hours do pilots fly a week?

Pilots have a wide range of flight hour requirements and schedules depending on the type of flying they do. Airline pilots tend to work the most hours, while corporate and private pilots may only fly a few hours per week. Let’s take a closer look at typical pilot schedules and flight time requirements.

Flight Hour Requirements

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets minimum flight hour requirements for pilots to qualify for various licenses and ratings. Here are some of the major FAA flight time minimums:

  • Private pilot certificate: 40 hours total time, including 20 hours of flight training from an instructor and 10 hours of solo flight.
  • Commercial pilot certificate: 250 hours total time, including 100 hours of pilot-in-command time and 50 hours of cross-country flight time.
  • Airline transport pilot (ATP) certificate: 1,500 hours total time for those pursuing an airline career. This includes 500 hours of cross-country flight time, 100 hours of night flying, and 75 hours of instrument training.

Pilots must log at least the FAA minimum hours to earn their licenses, but most pilots exceed these minimums sometimes significantly. It’s also important to note that flight hours for pay count differently than personal flight time. We’ll explore those distinctions next.

Airline Pilot Schedules

Airline pilots fly the most hours of any pilot group. Full-time airline pilots average around 75-90 flight hours per month. This equates to roughly 900-1,080 flight hours over the course of a year.

Monthly flight time is limited by FAA regulations to 100 hours or 1,000 flight hours per calendar year. However, duty time restrictions typically keep pilots well under the 100 hour monthly limit. For example, FAA rules state that pilots cannot be scheduled for more than 8 hours of flight time in any 24 hour period.

A typical airline pilot schedule consists of:

  • Around 12-14 duty days per month.
  • 3-4 flights per duty day on average.
  • Flight lengths ranging from 1-12 hours per flight.

This schedule allows for 75-90 hours of monthly flight time on average. Some pilots may fly closer to 100 hours certain busy months. Regional airline pilots tend to fly more hours than major airline pilots due to regional carriers having more demanding schedules.

Here is an example monthly schedule for an airline pilot flying domestic routes:

Date Number of Flights Flight Length Total Hours
1st 3 flights 6 hours 18 hours
2nd 2 flights 5 hours 10 hours
4th 4 flights 4 hours avg. 16 hours
8th 3 flights 5 hours avg. 15 hours
15th 3 flights 3 hours avg. 9 hours
22nd 2 flights 6 hours avg. 12 hours
Total 17 flights 80 hours

In this example, the pilot flew 17 flights totaling 80 hours of flight time for the month. This is a fairly typical schedule for a domestic airline captain or first officer.

Regional Airline Pilot Hours

Pilots working for regional carriers tend to fly even more hours than major airline pilots. Regional airline schedules are more demanding, with pilots flying around 80-90 hours per month on average.

Regional airline pilots fly shorter flights with faster turnarounds. A typical schedule might look like:

  • 14-16 duty days per month
  • 4-6 flights per duty day
  • Flight lengths of 1-2 hours each

When you fly more legs per day with shorter flight times, your total monthly hours really add up. It’s not uncommon for regional pilots to fly over 100 hours in a month during busy travel periods. Here’s an example regional pilot schedule:

Date Number of Flights Flight Length Total Hours
1st 5 flights 1.5 hours avg. 7.5 hours
3rd 6 flights 1.5 hours avg. 9 hours
8th 5 flights 1.5 hours avg. 7.5 hours
15th 6 flights 1.5 hours avg. 9 hours
22nd 5 flights 1.5 hours avg. 7.5 hours
28th 6 flights 1.5 hours avg. 9 hours
Total 33 flights 49.5 hours

This pilot flew 33 short flights totaling just under 50 hours for the month. Regional airline pilots average around 80-90 hours monthly working this type of intense schedule.

Corporate and Charter Pilot Hours

Pilots working in corporate aviation or charter flying log fewer flight hours than airline pilots. A typical corporate or charter pilot may fly:

  • 8-12 days per month
  • 1-2 flights per duty day
  • 3-6 hours per flight on average

This schedule leads to around 50-75 flight hours monthly. Corporate pilots fly executives and business personnel in light jets and turboprop aircraft. Charter pilots transport a wide variety of passengers in small aircraft and helicopters.

Here is an example monthly schedule for a corporate pilot:

Date Number of Flights Flight Length Total Hours
2nd 1 flight 3 hours 3 hours
5th 2 flights 4 hours avg. 8 hours
15th 1 flight 5 hours 5 hours
20th 1 flight 3 hours 3 hours
28th 2 flights 3 hours avg. 6 hours
Total 7 flights 25 hours

In this example month, the corporate pilot flew 7 flights totaling 25 hours of flight time. This more relaxed schedule is typical for business aviation pilots.

Private and Personal Pilots

Private pilots and others flying recreationally log the fewest flight hours. The FAA has no minimum hour requirements for private pilots once they earn their license. A private pilot may fly just a few hours per month to stay current.

Personal or recreational pilots typically fly:

  • 2-6 days per month
  • 1-2 flights per day max
  • 1-3 hours per flight on average

This leads many private pilots to fly less than 25 hours in a month. They may fly even less than that during busy times of year when they can’t get to the airport as often.

Here is an example private pilot schedule for one month:

Date Number of Flights Flight Length Total Hours
8th 1 flight 2 hours 2 hours
15th 2 flights 1 hour each 2 hours
23rd 1 flight 3 hours 3 hours
Total 4 flights 7 hours

This private pilot only flew 4 times for a total of 7 hours the entire month. This is common for recreational flyers who fit aviation in when they can.

Flight Instructor Hours

Certified flight instructors (CFIs) have unique schedules depending on whether they teach full-time or part-time. Full-time instructors may fly:

  • 20-25 hours per week instructing students
  • 5-10 additional hours per week of personal flying

This allows full-time instructors to log 25-35 hours or more a week while building experience teaching students. Part-time instructors who teach while pursuing other careers typically fly:

  • 10-15 hours per week instructing
  • 2-5 hours personal flying

Part-time CFIs may only fly around 15 hours per week total splitting time between students and themselves. Either way, instructors get plenty of flight time while being paid and advancing their careers.

Military Pilot Hours

Military pilots fly an enormous variety of aircraft from helicopters to fighter jets. Their schedules and flight hours can vary based on:

  • Branch of service (Air Force, Navy, Marines, etc.)
  • Aircraft type and mission
  • Rank and experience level

In general, military pilots fly between 150-300 hours annually on average. However, flight time can range much higher for someRoles like fighter pilots may fly up to 400 hours in a year.

Military pilots have flight hour limits just like civilian pilots. The FAA restricts military pilots to:

  • 125 flight hours per month
  • 1,500 hours per year

While some military pilots may approach these limits during heavy training and deployment, most fly well below the max. Military pilot schedules vary greatly but averages tend to be:

  • 8-15 flights per month
  • Mission lengths ranging from 30 minutes to over 12+ hours

Again, flight time depends heavily on the aircraft flown, individual skills, operational needs, and other factors. There is no universal military flight schedule, but hours remain regulated for safety.

Factors That Affect Flight Hours

While we’ve covered averages, many factors can influence a pilot’s monthly and annual flight time. Major factors include:

  • Career type – Airline pilots fly more than corporate, private, or instructors.
  • Rank and seniority – More experienced captains fly fewer hours at major airlines.
  • Route assignments – International pilots fly longer routes but fewer flights.
  • Economic cycles – Flight hours increase during growth and plummet in recessions.
  • Holidays and seasons – Travel spikes mean more flights; summer slumps reduce hours.
  • Aircraft differences – Larger jets like 747s require multiple pilots to fly together.
  • Personal obligations – Family, health, childcare etc. may limit availability.

The combination of these factors means monthly and yearly flight time can swing widely for pilots. But over the span of an entire career, totals tend to even out based on averages.

Flight Hour Limits and Fatigue

Limits on monthly and annual flight hours serve an important safety purpose. Fatigue is a major risk in aviation. Tired pilots make mistakes and flying requires constant vigilance.

That’s why the FAA regulates flight and duty hours through the following limitations:

  • 8 hours maximum flight time per duty period
  • 100 hours maximum flight time per month
  • 1,000 hours maximum per calendar year
  • Mandatory rest periods between duty periods

Airlines also have their own safety systems like fatigue risk management to monitor flight schedules. Pilots have a duty to be properly rested before flying and most airlines promote a strong safety culture.

While monthly hours may spike close to 100 during busy periods, most airline pilots average far below the cap. Regional pilots log the most hours but even their average of 80-90 monthly leaves a safety buffer from the FAA limit of 100 hours.


Pilots fly anywhere from just a few hours per month as a private pilot to over 100 hours monthly for the busiest regional airline captains. On average though, most pilots fall within these ranges:

  • Airline pilots: 75-90 hours/month
  • Regional airline pilots: 80-100 hours/month
  • Corporate pilots: 50-75 hours/month
  • Private pilots: 5-20 hours/month
  • Instructors: 15-35 hours/month
  • Military pilots: 150-300 hours/year

No matter the career path, all pilots must abide by strict FAA flight hour limits and airline scheduling policies to prevent fatigue issues. While flight time varies widely, safety remains the top priority across all areas of aviation.