How many hours does the average private pilot have?

Getting a private pilot’s license is an exciting goal for many aviation enthusiasts. After months or even years of training, pilots finally get the chance to fly an aircraft on their own. But how much flight experience does the typical private pilot have? Here’s a look at the average flight hours for private pilots in the United States.

Average Total Flight Hours

According to data from the FAA, the average private pilot in the US has between 110 and 190 hours total flight time. This includes all hours logged during training as well as after receiving their license. Most pilots fall somewhere in the middle of this range.

It’s important to note that 110 hours is the minimum required by the FAA to obtain a private pilot’s certificate. Pilots must complete at least 40 hours of flight training with an instructor, including 20 hours of dual instruction and 10 hours of solo flight. The remaining 70 hours can be a combination of solo and dual flights.

Many pilots continue training well beyond the minimums in order to build experience and skills. 190 hours falls on the higher end for a newly licensed private pilot, demonstrating a commitment to developing proficiency.

Hours Logged During Training

The bulk of a private pilot’s flight time is accumulated during formal flight training. On average, pilots log between 60-70 hours with a certified flight instructor before taking their checkride. These lessons allow pilots to master maneuvers and procedures to pass both the written exam and practical test.

In addition to the 20 hours of required dual instruction, the FAA also mandates at least 10 hours of solo flight training. During this time, the student pilot has full control of the aircraft without an instructor present. Solo hours build confidence and are an important milestone in training.

Between the dual and solo flight requirements, the typical private pilot completes 30-40 hours just within their supervised training curriculum. The remaining 20+ training hours are at the discretion of the instructor based on the student’s progress.

Hours Logged After Licensing

Once a pilot has passed their checkride and obtained their license, the flight hours start to add up more slowly. Many newly minted private pilots strive to fly at least 50 hours in the first year after licensing. This helps reinforce their skills and prevents loss of proficiency over time.

On average, private pilots log between 25-50 hours per year after earning their certificate. However, this can vary significantly based on several factors:

  • Access to aircraft – Pilots with their own planes find it easier to fly frequently
  • Proximity to airports – Living far from suitable airports limits opportunities to fly
  • Cost – The expense of renting aircraft can deter pilots from flying as often
  • Career aspirations – Pilots aiming to become commercial pilots tend to log more hours

Pilots wanting to pursue more advanced FAA certifications have incentives to maximize their flight hours. For example, applicants for a commercial pilot certificate must have at least 250 hours of flight time. Hours flown as a private pilot count toward this requirement.

Differences Between Part 61 and Part 141 Pilots

There are two different training paths for earning a private pilot certificate – Part 61 and Part 141. Each has different flight hour requirements:

Part 61

  • Minimum total time: 40 hours
  • Minimum solo: 10 hours
  • Average total time: 60-80 hours

Part 141

  • Minimum total time: 35 hours
  • Minimum solo: 5 hours
  • Average total time: 50-70 hours

Part 141 programs, offered by FAA-approved flight schools, allow pilots to get certified with fewer flight hours. However, the curriculum is more structured with strict training milestones. Part 61 is a more flexible approach, but requires more hours.

Regardless of the training path, the FAA still requires all pilots to demonstrate proficiency before licensing. Some pilots may take longer to meet the standards.

How Flight Hours Vary by Age

A pilot’s total flight hours tend to steadily increase over time after certification. However, there are differences depending on when someone learns to fly:

  • Younger pilots (under 30): Tend to have closer to the minimum hours required for licensing. Financial constraints and other priorities limit flight time.
  • Middle-aged pilots (30-60): Have the highest average hours as aviation becomes more of a priority. Financial ability to rent or own planes increases.
  • Older pilots (over 60): Flight hours level off or decrease due to retirement and health factors. Maintaining proficiency becomes more difficult.

Of course, there are always exceptions to these general trends. Some young pilots quickly accumulate substantial hours, while other older pilots remain actively engaged in flying. But on the whole, a pilot’s age and stage of life impact their flying activity and total flight time.

Differences Between Recreational and Career Pilots

Pilots who intend aviation as a career accrue flight hours at a faster pace. Building time quickly is necessary to:

  • Pursue advanced FAA ratings and certificates
  • Meet minimums to qualify for commercial flying jobs
  • Gain experience needed for airline and corporate positions

Conversely, recreational pilots fly for personal enjoyment and leisure without larger career goals. Some key differences:

Career Pilots Recreational Pilots
Fly several times per week or even daily Fly sporadically, often monthly or less
Log hundreds of hours per year Only fly a few tens of hours annually
View flying as work and income source Consider flying a hobby

For career pilots, flight hours are the foundation of their profession. Recreational pilots with limited time and other priorities accumulate hours at a much more gradual rate.

Differences Between Full-Time and Part-Time Pilots

Within the population of career pilots, there are also significant differences in flight time logged based on whether someone flies full or part-time:

  • Full-time pilots work in aviation as their sole occupation. This includes airline pilots, charter pilots, flight instructors, bush pilots in remote areas, and air ambulance pilots. They typically log over 1,000 hours annually.
  • Part-time pilots have a separate primary career, but fly as a secondary job or side business. Examples include corporate pilots, scenario-based training providers, and pilots with tourism flightseeing businesses. These pilots may fly 100-500 hours per year.

Full-time pilots have the advantage of focusing entirely on flight operations. Part-timers must balance aviation with the time demands of their other job.

Flight Hours Needed for Advanced Certification

For pilots wishing to pursue more advanced FAA certifications beyond a private pilot license, meeting certain flight hour minimums is necessary. This encourages pilots to log more hours and gain experience.

Here are the flight time requirements for other common certificates:

  • Instrument Rating – 50 hours of cross-country flight time as pilot-in-command, 40 hours simulated or actual instrument time
  • Commercial Pilot – 250 hours total time, 100 hours of pilot-in-command flight (or 200 hours total if training under Part 141)
  • Flight Instructor – 15 hours of dual instruction received, 2 hours practicing flight instruction procedures
  • ATP (Airline Transport Pilot) – 1,500 hours total time for graduates of associate or bachelor aviation degrees

Pilots earn these advanced certifications incrementally to access more flying opportunities. The flight hour requirements encourage significant experience before taking on more challenging roles.


Most private pilots in the U.S. have between 110-190 hours total flight time on average. Approximately 60-70 hours are typically logged during initial flight training, with another 25-50 accrued per year after certification.

Hours vary based on the pilot’s age, aspirations, financial ability, and proximity to flight facilities. Pilots on a career track accumulate hours more rapidly through near-daily flights, while recreational pilots with other priorities fly less frequently.

No matter their goals, all private pilots must demonstrate sound judgement and technical skills before the FAA grants them a license. While flight hours alone don’t make a competent pilot, meeting experience minimums and pursuing ongoing proficiency is key to safety.

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