Hours Building

Everything you need to know about hours building

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What is Hours Building?

This is an informational page and is, as far as possible, unbiased. To find out about our course, or to book your place, please go to the Book a Course page.

Hours building is the name given to working your way to the number of hours you need to start your Commercial Pilot Licence (CPL) or Instrument Rating (IR).

Why do I need to build hours?

Hours building ensures that as a pilot wanting to fly commercially (and to be paid to do so), you have the knowledge, skills and experience to be able to achieve the level required to pass the CPL and IR skills tests.

It is the time spent becoming a more rounded pilot, practising all of the things you are taught during your Private Pilot’s Licence and to learn to fly within the much tighter tolerances found in the CPL & IR skills tests.

How many hours do I need to build?

CPL First or IR First?

This is a tricky question. If you chose to do your CPL first, you will need to have achieved the following for your licence to be issued:

  • Hold a Class 1 medical.
  • Hold a PPL.
  • Have completed either your CPL or Airline Transport Pilot Licence (ATPL) theory and passed the exams. To be considered for an airline pilot’s job and to be able to also complete your IR, you will need to complete the ATPL Theory and exams.
  • 200 hours of total flight time – although you can start the CPL training once you have 150 hours flight time.
  • 100 hours of Pilot in Command time (PIC).
  • 5 Hours of night flying (see night rating page).
  • 20 Hours of cross-country flight time.
  • One of your cross-country flights must be at least 300NM and include 2 full stop landings at 2 different aerodromes.
  • 10 Hours of instrument flight instruction of which 5 hours may be in an approved simulator (if you already hold an IR you do not need to complete this).

The course itself consists of 25 Hours of dual flight instruction, including 10 hours of instrument instruction and 15 Hours of visual flight instruction. If you already hold an IR you will be credited up to 10 hours for the instrument instruction time.

If you have completed your CPL first (which we would recommend), then you can then go on to train for, and hopefully complete, your IR.


If you choose to train for your IR first, this allows you to practice instrument flying and have more instrument flying hours logged, but can be very hard to achieve without the experience gained during the CPL.

If you took this option then you would need the following for licence issue:

  • Hold a Class 1 or Class 2 medical with a valid Audiogram.
  • Hold at least a PPL.
  • Have completed either your IR or ATPL Theory and passed the exams. To be considered for an airline pilot’s job or similar and to be able to also complete your CPL, you will need to complete the ATPL Theory and exams.
  • Have at least 50 hours of cross-country Pilot in Command time (PIC).
  • Night rating to be able to exercise the privileges of the rating.

The course itself will consist of 45 hours of training if you already hold a CPL (as 10 hours of instrument time will be included at basic instrument flight level), or 55 hours if you elect to train for the IR first.

This can be made up of up to 40 hours (30 if you have a CPL) in a Flight Training Procedural trainer Level 2 (FTPT II), which will be almost identical to the aircraft you will complete the remainder of the IR course in.

You will then fly a further 15 hours in the aircraft before when ready being put forward for your flight test.

How long does it take to complete the hours building?

As you can see from above this is a difficult question to answer for a number of reasons:

  • It depends on the number of hours it takes you to complete each licence.
  • It depends if you choose the CPL or IR first.

Here are a couple of examples, but please remember that these are the minimum hours. It is likely that you will go over those hours on one or more of the elements.

Example 1:

Course Hours PIC Hours Under Instruction
PPL - 45
Night rating 2 4
Hours Building 1 70 1
Multi engine rating - 6
IR - 55
Hours building 2 30 -
CPL - 15
Total 102 Hours 126 Hours
Total Flight Time 228 Hours

Example 2:

Course Hours PIC Hours Under Instruction
PPL - 45
Night rating 2 4
Hours Building 100 1
Multi engine rating - 6
CPL - 25
IR - 45
Total 102 Hours 126 Hours
Total Flight Time 228 Hours

How much does hours building cost?

Hours building is often sold in packages of 20 – 100 hours.

You can expect to pay approximately £3,750 – £4,600 for 20 Hours and £17,000 – £19,000 for 100 hours.

For this part of the training the price can vary based on the location, the aircraft type and the demand.

What should I be learning whilst hours building?

Firstly, you should be enjoying the journey to becoming a commercial pilot, so don’t just “burn holes in the sky”.

It is a great (although expensive) privilege to be flying, and you will be unlikely to get to spend this amount of time deciding when and where you would like to fly again in your flying career.

It is a good idea to use the time to increase your confidence whilst practising the skills you have been taught during your PPL (and possibly IR, depending on the path taken).

  • If you know the school you will be completing your CPL at, then ask for some of the routes they use in training and spend some time getting to know the airspace and landmarks.
  • Try not to get into bad habits – plan your flights properly as is the legal requirement and don’t rely solely on aids such as the GPS.
  • Practice planning and carrying out diversions and become confident on the radio, try and fly with more experienced pilots and listen to their feedback (but remember you do not hold a multi-crew qualification so only one of you is in charge of the aircraft, the other I solely a passenger).
  • Make sure you complete enough cross-country hours especially the prerequisite 300 NM cross country.

There are several good books with ideas for hours building, and a quick search online can bring up some of the routes previous students in your position have taken.

What type of Aircraft can I hours build in?

Generally, most people hour build in a similar aircraft to those they completed their PPL in, ie. a Piper PA 28, Cessna 150/2 or Cessna 172.

If you get the chance it is good to try and fly a mix of aircraft so you can learn to adapt quickly, and it is also very enjoyable to start to master a different aircraft.

Should I hours build in the UK?

This really depends on where you plan to fly and complete your CPL and IR. The UK can be a frustrating place to fly due to the weather and higher cost, but it is also a great place to build experience.

We have busy, but very well controlled airspace and as they say, if you can fly in the UK you can fly anywhere in the world.

It can be a great idea to do a mixture of hours in the UK and somewhere with better weather and cheaper prices, it can also be much more efficient to train in a country with better weather.

Then once you have finished your training come back to the UK and use some of the money you have saved to make some enjoyable trips building on the things you have learned in your training whilst gaining valuable experience.

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