The R-ATP and Tim Gleeson, 2014 professional flight graduate
The FAA’s requirement to have 1,500 flight hours before being eligible to fly as First Officer (copilot) for an airline is really just a speed bump that we will overcome and have bright futures after, if flying for an airline is your desired path.
Students who started Fall 2013 or later are eligible for a reduction to 1,000 hours because of Purdue’s quality training. Most students will flight instruct or do aerial mapping/photography to build the required flight time. Some opportunities also exist flying freight for small companies or on the corporate side of the industry.
Purdue really encourages students to become flight instructors within the program, which helps us develop our skills and build time during junior and senior years. I instructed the past two years as a way to build as much time as possible while still studying at Purdue. I also was able to fly both of Purdue’s business jets where I built valuable multiengine and cross-country flight time also required by the new law (it requires 50 hours of multiengine flight time). I stayed at Purdue during my last summer and instructed Purdue students and disabled students through a partnership with Purdue that helped me build several hours, and it was a very rewarding experience.
To put it in perspective, a student who instructs will leave Purdue with approximately 500-600 hours. Getting the additional time can be done relatively quickly depending on the job and how much you fly; it is not unheard of to fly 60-100 hours a month as a flight instructor, so within a fairly short period the 500-1000 hour gap can be bridged. I have about 900 hours, and bridging the gap could be done in six months for my 1,500 hours, or a much shorter time period if the FAA approves me for 1,000 hours.
It is also important to note that this requirement only applies to scheduled airlines. Graduates of the Purdue program, including me, can also pursue flying careers on the corporate side of the industry where there is no legal minimum to flying as a copilot, but these jobs are not as easy to come by.
written May 2014