Pilot hours – how many hours will you clock up?

There are many variations that predict how many hours a pilot is legally allowed to fly in a day, week, month or year. Regulations and airlines work hard to ensure that pilot fatigue doesn’t become an issue because, of course, safety is the priority for everyone. The EASA regulated flying hours in Europe.  

The daily limitations are worked out by time zone, number of flights and, for long haul flights, how many crew are on board. Early starts and late finishes are also taken into consideration when working out weekly or monthly flying hours and rotas. 

Regulations are also set for time off depending on time spent working in a set period (don’t forget, pilot duties don’t start and finish in the air!). 

The EASA states that total working hours must not go beyond 60 hours in 7 consecutive days, 110 hours in 14 consecutive days and 190 hours in 28 consecutive days. 

In terms of actual flying hours (generally from taxi to parking at the destination), hour limitations are as follows: 100 hours in any 28 consecutive days, 900 hours in a calendar year and 1000 hours in 12 consecutive months. 

For example, a typical day of short haul flights sees a pilot arriving an hour before the flight is due to depart. This is the start of the flight duty period. The end of the flight duty period is when the aircraft is parked. A pilot could typically fly for two longer flights or four shorter journeys. Or a combination of the two. 

If flight duty time begins at 6am, the EASA states that a working day cannot exceed 12 hours, except in cases of delay or where pilot’s discretion is exercised (up to an additional three hours). 

Long haul flight duty period begins around 90 minutes before the flight is due to depart. Maximum duty time for a long haul pilot in a day is 13 hours. There are two pilots on a long haul flight, so there is opportunity for rest every so often, hence the higher duty time than short haul pilots. 

There are complex factors that determine daily, weekly and monthly hours for long haul flying. Rest night have to be factored in at the destination, which also depends on the time zone. 

For all pilots, rest time between flights is generally worked out depending on their previous duty time. Any working period under 12 hours qualifies for 12 hours of rest. Above 12 hours of flight duty gives an equal period of rest; for example if a pilot is on duty for 14 hours, they will get a 14 hour rest period. 

As you can see, it’s tough for airlines to work out pilot rotas – there are so many factors that determine flying time on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Not only does flying time have to be taken into consideration, the flying duty period must also be factored in. But hopefully this gives you some indication as to how many hours you will be putting in as a fully qualified pilot.