top of page
logo black.png


Of East Texas


A career in aviation is your thing? We can kick that off in the right direction. But airlines arent the only game in town. A Commercial Pilot Certificate opens many doors.

Aircraft delivery, banner towing, glider towing, crop dusting, airborne firefighting, air ambulance operations, corporate flying, sight seeing adventures... the list goes on. 

And to engage in any of those activities, a Commercial Pilot Certificate is a must have. 

But how do you get there? Read on, and discover the pathway of the professional pilot!

Image by Blake Guidry



Upon certification as a Private Pilot, most individuals will have approximately 40-60 hours total flight experience. The Private Pilot Certificate allows them to operate small, single engine airplanes of 200 horsepower or less, with fixed landing gear that are land-based aircraft both day and night, in good weather conditions with the limitation that they may not operate for hire or compensation in any way. The FAA does not limit the interpretation of “compensation” to financial compensation alone. Generally, accepting gifts, free flight time, sports tickets, reimbursement with meals or other perks are considered to be compensation by the FAA.

An applicant for a private pilot certificate must have the following flight experience:
a. 40 hours total flight experience

b. 20 hours minimum with a flight instructor

c. 10 hours solo flight experience which includes not less than 5 hours solo cross country

d. 1 solo cross country must exceed 150 nm total distance with stops at 3 points

e. 3 hours night flight training

f. Night flight training must include a minimum of 10 takeoffs and landings at night

g. Night flight training must include a 100 nm total distance night cross country

h. 3 solo takeoffs and landings at a tower-controlled airport

i. 3 hours flight training by reference to instruments under a view limiting device.


Once private pilot training is completed, those pilots who wish to continue on with more advanced training, such as an instrument rating, must meet various prerequisites before they are qualified for the next available rating. During this phase of your training, the “time builder” will repeatedly fly to airports further than 50 nm from Athens Municipal Airport until they have accrued a minimum of 50 hours cross country "pilot in command" time, not including the time they acquired during private training. Pilots who complete this phase of their flight experience training will typically have between 90- and 110-hours total flight experience by this point. Find a mission, and fly it! Take your spouse or family members out in search of interesting on airport restaurants, seek out one of many seasonal fly in air show style events or simply use the time as an excuse to take to the air for whatever reason you wish. Once this valuable experience is attained, training can begin on the next phase.


The instrument rating allows a pilot to operate in weather conditions less than those prescribed for Visual Flight Rules. The pilot may file an Instrument flight plan, conduct instrument departures, instrument arrivals and instrument approaches in weather conditions that would traditionally have non instrument rated pilots grounded. Limitations of the Private Pilot Certificate with regards to compensation or hire operations remain in place. But many operational limitations with regards to weather minimums are greatly reduced.            


An applicant for an Instrument Rating must have the following flight experience:


a. 50 hours cross country time pilot in command to qualify

b. 40 hours of actual or simulated instrument flight of which 15 must be with an instructor


Typically, the remaining hours not with an instructor are conducted with a “safety pilot”. A safety pilot is at least a private pilot who acts as pilot in command while the pilot flying is   building instrument time under a view limiting device. Upon completion of instrument training, most applicants will have approximately 150-175 flight hours.

The Commercial Pilot Certificate allows the pilot to operate for compensation or hire under specific limitations found in the Federal Aviation Regulations. Commercial Pilots cannot “hold out” their services to the public nor can they engage in air commerce by way of scheduled or charter operations. Such charter or scheduled operations would call for a Part 135 or 121 certificate which would allow them to operate as an "air carrier".
Regulatory limitations aside, commercial pilots may conduct operations such as ferrying aircraft, crop dusting, firefighting, photo flights, surveying & mapping, powerline or pipeline patrol, parachute jump operations, banner towing, sight-seeing tours within 25 nm of the airport and a hand full of other operations. 
Commercial Pilot requirements:
a. 18 years of age
b. Valid 2nd Class Medical Certificate
c. You must have not less than 250 hours total time
d. 20 hours with a flight instructor on commercial pilot training
e. 10 hours training in a complex, turbine OR technically Advanced Airplane
f. 10 hours instrument training
g. 2 hour night cross country covering 100 nautical miles
h. 2 hour day cross country covering 100 nautical miles
i. 300 nm solo cross country with stops at 3 points, and one leg of 250 nm or more
j. 5 hours night flight experience at a towered airport.

Upon completion of certification, most applicants will have approximately 250-300 hours total flight experience. During this training you will also normally receive high performance and        complex aircraft training. These endorsements allow you to operate aircraft exceeding 200 horsepower (high performance) and those aircraft with retractable landing gear and constant speed propeller systems (complex).



The CFI program is normally a 30-day fast track offered by a multitude of CFI schools which specialize in fast-track CFI training, any combination of the Flight Instructor Airplane, Flight Instructor Instrument or Multi-Engine Instructor can typically be obtained in 30-45 days. Normally there is only about 15-20 hours flight time in such a program as the majority of the program focuses on the teaching process, psychology of learning etc. therefore, most applicants do not see a substantial increase in their logged piloting experience during this course.


Generally, most applicants will have less than 400 hours total time on completion. SkySchool of East Texas can endorse an applicant for CFI check ride on completion of such training.

The multi engine rating is an add on rating and the training takes approximately 7-10 days depending on student, instructor and aircraft availability. The training consists of approximately 10-15 hours flight training on engine related emergencies, systems, alternate landing gear extension and in-flight engine re-starts etc.
Most applicants will have approximately 260-320 hours flight experience on completion. Having a multi engine rating allows you to operate aircraft with two or more engines, with a weight restriction of less than 12,500 lbs, the aircraft also cannot be turbojet powered, as such aircraft would require "type specific training".



For an applicant to be hired by an airline, by law, the applicant must have 1,500 hours total flight experience. If the pilot has an associate’s degree in an aviation field of study, and two or more of his licenses and ratings were obtained at an aviation college or university they may be hired at 1,250 hours. If the pilot has a bachelor’s degree in an aviation field of study, and two or more of his licenses and ratings were obtained at an aviation college or university they may be hired at 1,000 hours. Pilots who are former military pilots may be hired at 750 hours.
The reality of becoming a jet pilot for either the corporate sector, or the airline industry is that most pilots who go through to CFI training will only have about 400 hours total time when they take on their first paying job, this means they have to build a substantial amount of flight experience to be marketable and insurable as pilots of large turbine or jet powered aircraft.
Most pilots become flight instructors and provide flight instruction to upcoming aviators in an effort to build their logged flight hours. Be aware that there are pilot jobs that do not require 1,500 hours to hire, such as powerline patrol, crop dusting, banner towing operations, skydive carriage and similar positions which allow the pilot to build hours toward higher-level employment.
While filling the logbook with over a thousand hours of flight time may sound daunting, even a small part 61 flight school operates in the neighborhood of 500+ flying hours per year, so with a brief 2-year commitment as an instructor, you'll be applying to that dream job in no time!

*SkySchool of East Texas offers all of our students with assistance in resume building, airline interview preparation and job searches once training has been completed.

bottom of page